August 2011 - Issue 1
The pick of the top events p6-7
Teach them to be gourmets p10
Ponies, horses and festivals p8-9
Waiting for the world to end A village in the Aude is becoming home to people who say it will survive Apocalypse
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Photo: Louise Hurren
FULL STORY PAGES 2-3 Village residents Marie-Christine Louvet (left) and Sylvie da Silva: “An alternative lifestyle is nothing new here”
2 News Welcome to your new local newspaper THANK YOU for reading the first edition of the Languegoc Pages, your new monthly newspaper in English for Languedoc. We hope you enjoy our mix of local news, features, events and contacts written by journalists living in the area. We appreciate the help we have received from our partners in both the French and British communities and our advertisers. We welcome feedback and if you know of a local issue we should be covering, please contact us at the address below.
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Myth and mystery start a mini-boom in Bugarach With the end of the world due in 2012, believers are moving to a place they think will be saved, reports
LEGENDS have surrounded Bugarach, a tiny hamlet of just 189 souls, for centuries. The village, about half an hour’s drive from Carcassone, is where the rebellious members of the Cathar religious sect sought refuge from Pope Innocent III in the 13th century, when the Catholic church launched a crusade against them. Towering above the village is the Pic de Bugarach, a limestone outcrop believed to have magic properties, with deep cavities beneath said to give access to underground mythical worlds. Bugarach village and its peak are at the highest point of the Corbières in the Aude department of Languedoc-Roussillon.
Until recently, hikers and nature-lovers were the only visitors to be seen in this sparsely populated area, enjoying its sun-baked hills and valleys or searching for rare orchids. Now locals find their quaint backwater is being invaded by incomers they call les ésotérics. These new visitors are here for a very specific reason: they believe Bugarach to be a special place of salvation, somewhere extraterrestrials may intervene or even rescue a chosen few when the Apocalypse comes – and that is not very far off. The precise date of the end of the world is a little hazy, though believers are convinced that it will take place in 2012. Some place it on December 21, the end date of the 5,125-year cycle in the Mayan calendar, while others are looking towards December 12. Either way, for many Bugarach is the place to be when it comes to pass. This does not please the mayor of the village, Jean-Pierre Delord: “These blasted prophets from all over the world have turned our mountain into some sort of UFO garage,” he said recently. Pic de Bugarach is also known as Pech de Thauze, and it rises above the little hamlet to a height of 1,320m. It is said to be “upsidedown” because the top layers of rock are older than those lower down the mountain. This, a geologist might suggest, could have been caused by an explosion that happened soon after the mountain was formed. Such logic does not impress believers, and the internet abounds with stories about magnetic forces surrounding the peak and other even more fanciful theories. This “sacred mountain” has stirred the imagination of many, including French father of science fiction Jules Verne, author of Journey to the Centre of the Earth. Locals believe a visit to Bugarach also inspired American film-maker Steven Spielberg to make Close Encounters of the Third Kind, and some suggest that former French president François Mitterrand was sufficiently impressed to visit the mountain by helicopter. Nostradamus, the 16th-century French apothecary known for apocalyptic prophecies, is believed to have stayed in the area, and rumours of mysterious Nazi digs have also
Pic de Bugarach is attracting UFO hunters and
Mayor Jean-Pierre Delord fears Bugarach is surfaced. There are reports that pilots avoid flying over the mountain because of magnetic waves causing problems for aircraft. When the mayor noticed an increased number of visitors to his tranquil village, he alerted Miviludes (Mission Interministérielle de Vigilance et de Lutte contre les Dérives Sectaires), the French government watchdog set up to monitor “the phenomenon of movements with a cultic character”. Miviludes president Georges Fenech visited the area and found six settlements in the surrounding countryside set up by members of
Property prices go BUGARACH’S status as an end-of-the-world haven has had an effect on property prices in the area. Mayor Jean-Pierre Delord says that current prices are €50 per square metre as opposed to €15 per square metre less than a year ago. The local newspaper, L'Indépendant, has reported that house-hunters from as far afield as Hong Kong and Russia are buying in the area, although the hippie profile of Bugarach’s newer residents does not seem to indicate excess disposable income. René Jammes runs an estate agency in nearby Quillan: “It’s true that prices have been a bit crazy recently. We’ve seen some
Photo: Louise Hurren
rapture believers who are convinced it is one of the few places that will survive the Apocalypse Photo: Louise Hurren
Photo: Louise Hurren
BUGARACH resident Sigrid Benard runs a gîte in the village, Maison de la Nature. She confirms that enquiries from UFO-watchers and similar groups have grown slightly over the past two to three years but, she says, this is nothing special. “The majority of our guests are ramblers and cyclists, and I’m getting a lot of phone calls from journalists, too,” she laughs, putting paid to the idea that the guest-house might extend its season next year in response to requests from visitors wanting to book rooms from December 2012 to the end of January 2013. Sarah Lecrosnier runs the local shop, Le Relais de Bugarach, where a number of New Age publications are for sale. Customers can pick up flyers detailing alternative therapies and workshops in and around the village. “Out of season the tiny village is very quiet”, she says. From a shopkeeper’s perspective, she is not against the newcomers: “If we had a few more customers here in the winter, it wouldn’t be a bad thing at all.” Writer Marie-Christine Louvet, who has lived in the village for a long time, is relaxed about Bugarach’s new-found fame: “Bugarach is a wonderful place, full of history. It has always appealed to people who prefer an alternative lifestyle, that’s nothing new. It’s peaceful
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being turned into ‘a UFO garage’
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the Ramtha School of Enlightenment. Started by the controversial American spiritual leader JZ Knight, the group claims to follow the teachings of Ramtha, an ancient warrior, conqueror and ascended Master who lived 35,000 years ago in the long-gone continent of Lemuria. “Gurus” hold meditation and prayer meetings, with discussions on topics such as Doomsday and immortality, and esoteric groups have started to hold fee-paying conferences in the region’s hotels. A Miviludes report recommends that the hamlet be monitored in the run-up to the end of 2012.
‘bit crazy’ property sales in the area go through at quite high prices.” Mr Jammes believes that houses worth about €80,000 are being marketed by canny sellers for as much as twice or three times this sum. “But buyers aren’t daft, they can see if a property is overpriced. If we are asked to go and value a house or a plot of land in Bugarach, we go, but we don’t get involved in these price-hiking games. “It’s true that Bugarach is a bit of a hot spot at the moment, but given the general state of the economy, I don’t think people will get drawn into this game, and I don’t believe this situation will last very long.”
Alert over ‘risk to vulnerable’ THE RECENT influx of New Age visitors and settlers in Bugarach could raise the threat of financial scams and psychological manipulation, according to a report by Miviludes in June. “I think we need to be careful. We shouldn’t get paranoid, but when you see what happened at Waco in the United States, we know this kind of thinking can influence vulnerable people,” Miviludes president Georges Fenech told the Reuters news agency. Miviludes was set up in 2002 to fight against “sectarian deviances” and the phenomenon of cults. A new law made it an offence for vulnerable people to be abused by being subjected to heavy pressure techniques. BUGARACH and its surroundings still bear visible traces of medieval religious groups and ancient orders, including the Cathars, who built remarkable castles at Quéribus, Peyrepetuse, Puilaurens and Montségur. Just 13km away lies the village of Rennes-le-Château, whose supposedly hidden treasures and mysterious connections have inspired many bestselling books, including The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail and The Da Vinci Code.
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Residents split over newcomers here. The energy is different, we take time to really live, to try to understand ourselves and others. I’ve never seen a UFO, an alien or anything of that nature, but that doesn’t mean they don’t exist: I’m open-minded.” Artist Sylvie da Silva sells her handicrafts at the roadside in Bugarach during the summer. “If, like me, you don’t conform to the norm, people sometimes look at you a bit oddly. But there are all sorts of people here, from many different backgrounds, and that’s a good thing,” she says. “So long as gullible folk aren’t being exploited – and that can happen – then I don’t see anything wrong with alternative groups being based here.” Wendy Gedney is a wine tourism guide with Vin en Vacances, and she often takes groups through Bugarach on her trips to visit the Corbières vineyards. “Bugarach is a very peaceful
place and I sincerely hope it stays that way.” A former teacher called Jean refuses to give his last name because of local controversy. He lives in a yurt in the forest near Bugarach, where he hopes to build “a civilisation of the heart”. “The apocalypse we believe in is the end of a certain world and the beginning of another new spiritual world,” he says. “The year 2012 is the end of a cycle of suffering, and Bugarach is one of the major chakras of the earth, a place devoted to welcoming the energies of tomorrow.” The mayor of Bugarach, Jean-Pierre Delord, is concerned: “Our village has a population of around 200 people and we don’t want 2,000-3,000 utopians in Bugarach.” He is keen to prevent “Apocalypse believers and lunatics” from travelling to Bugarach. It is difficult to see how he will achieve his aim.
Looking to buy a house? See page 15 for a wide range of properties
Wind speed picks up
Perpignan station: one of the hubs of the proposed new high-speed rail line
One of the wonders of the world
RED TAPE and bureaucratic delays have been blamed for the 12 years it has taken to expand one of the oldest wind farms in the region. Last month, nine new turbines on the high plateau overlooking Port-la-Nouvelle in the Aude were finally declared operational. EDF must be hoping that the expansion of another site, near Lézignan-Corbières, will be quicker. “This shows the importance of working with local officials,” EDF’s David Augeix said ruefully.
THE new high speed train line (ligne à grande vitesse, or LGV) planned to connect Montpellier and Perpignan will not be launched until 2020, but LanguedocRoussillon residents can get an idea of the potential changes afoot as the public consultation process moves forward this summer. They will not know the exact route of the LGV until the decision is taken by transport minister Thierry Mariani in September. The scheme is being piloted by a committee made up of the State, the RFF (Réseau Ferré de France, the French rail network), the regional council of Languedoc-Roussillon and local groups. Several options are up for debate. One, which would have cut through the vineyards of the Corbières, has already met with a resounding refusal from local representatives.
Originally the project was meant to follow the route established by the SNCF in the 1990s, but this was shelved in 2003 because of lack of funding. One of the problems now faced is that the dual-usage “passenger-freight” option originally envisaged requires tunnels to be built, which adds considerably to the cost. The conundrum faced by the state is the need to build an LGV line for freight between Montpellier and Narbonne which would only be used by passenger trains between Narbonne and Perpignan. Meanwhile, RFF is working its way through a 34-month period of studies and property acquisitions with a view to preparing the site. People who own property close to the proposed routes should consult the website www.lalignenouvelle.com
The truffle is no trifle THE TOWN of VilleneuveMinervois, north of Carcassonne, is building on the success of its well-known truffle market by opening a House of Truffles at the mairie. The new venture, due to open in the autumn, will teach visitors everything there is to know about the town’s most valuable product, tuber melanosporum, or the black truffle, which can sell for more than the price of gold by weight.
Plastic peril for sea life THE Mediterrean coastline is at risk from “micro-plastic” particles which can have serious consequences for marine life, according to the Eco-Mer laboratory of Nice’s Sophia Antipolis University. Larger plastic items kill 100,000 mammals and turtles each year and scientists are now investigating the more insidious effects of an estimated 250 billion tiny plastic particles from rubbish in the sea
A9 plans to reduce jams FOUR different plans for the A9 motorway are being studied to reduce congestion around Montpellier. The first suggestion is to build 23km of new road alongside the motorway, effectively widening the A9, to manage traffic flow. The second and third plans would take the motorway to four or six lanes, while the fourth proposes building an alternative stretch of road.
Photo CDT Lozère
Questions over rail route
Region ‘own brand’ shops open in 2012 SHOPS dedicated to the Languedoc-Roussillon’s “own brand” products sold under the Sud de France label are to open in the region in 2012. Launched in 2006 by the region’s late president, Georges Frêche, the Sud de France brand is now used to market more than 6,000 local products. The new, franchised Sud de France shops, which were announced during celebra-
tions marking the brand’s fifth anniversary, will aim further to develop sales of the wines and foods of Languedoc-Roussillon. Meanwhile, the brand has begun a sports sponsorship programme this year, supporting Montpellier football club and sponsoring the Sud de France/LanguedocRoussillon boat that competed in this year’s Tour de France à la Voile yacht race.
Hark, hark the shark... A SHARK alert that caused some concern in Hérault earlier this summer appears to be over. Beach-goers were warned of potential dangers after a several sharks were caught by fishermen off the Grand-Travers and Les Aresquiers beaches in May. At least one shark of almost a metre long was caught each day for a fortnight. However, no further sightings have been reported.
Point of sale: the Sud de France logo is a big success
Montpellier’s new air links STARTING this summer, Languedoc residents have a selection of new destinations from Montpellier-Méditerranée airport. The seven routes will be served until the end of October. Four are provided by low-cost carriers: Birmingham and Manchester (bmibaby), Rotterdam (Transavia) and Fez (Air Arabia). Two others, Marrakech and Djerba, are handled by tour operator Fram, and flights to Strasbourg will be offered by Air France.
The wild beauty of Mont Lozère and other parts of the Cévennes mountains and Grand Causses limestone plateaux have finally received the recognition they deserve. After two unsuccessful attempts, they have been included in the Unesco World Heritage list because of their outstanding natural beauty. The sparsely populated area covers 3,000km² and spans three Languedoc departments – the Gard,
Upgrade for airport FLYING from Perpignan is set to become more enjoyable thanks to an investment of some €400,000 to give the airport a facelift in 2012. Facilities will be modernised with two new shops, one selling local produce. Ryanair has announced extra summer flights, with Brussels/Charleroi increasing from three to four a week, and the route between Perpignan and London Stansted operating daily.
TV switch-off in November Languedoc-Roussillon will be the last French region to turn off its analogue TV signal when it switches over to digital television transmission (télévision numérique terrestre, or TNT) on November 29 this year. Some households will have already have made the change – those in the east of the Gard and Hérault, and southern Lozère, as well as people who receive their signal from the Avignon MontVentoux or MarseilleEtoile transmitters. The rest have until the end of the year, when some 1.6 million households will find themselves no longer able to receive analogue television . To receive the digital signal, viewers will need to have either a TNT set-top box or a television with a built-in decoder.
Did you know?
Hérault and Lozère – along with the Aveyron in the Midi-Pyrénées. Its inclusion in the Unesco list brings to six the number of World Heritage sites in Languedoc-Roussillon. The five others are the walled city of Carcassonne, the Canal du Midi, the pilgrimage route to Santiago de Compostela, the Pont du Gard and the fortresses of Villefranche-de-Conflent and Mont-Louis, built by Vauban in the 17th century.
An oyster that is in the pink AT the top of the list of Languedoc delicacies is seafood, and of that none is more highly regarded than the oyster. With their delicate flavours and supposed aphrodisiac properties, les huîtres are the delight of gourmets the world over. What mollusc fans might not know, however, is that Languedoc produces the Pink Diamond, an unusual variety of oyster with a pink shell, tinged by the sun. Unique to the region (only one ostréiculteur, or oyster producer, currently farms it), the Tarbouriech pink oyster is highly sought-after, and twice as expensive as standard oysters. The Tarbouriech family firm Médithau has been farming oysters in the tideless lagoon of the Bassin de Thau, near Bouzigues, since the 1960s. They use a solarpowered mechanism to lift the oyster frames out of the waters of the lagoon, exposing the growing oysters to the sun. This innovative,
Coast watch to monitor tsunami risk THE Mediterranean coast of France could face tidal waves of between one and four metres because of earthquake activity off the North African coast and seismic shifts in the Golfe du Lion, according to the Office of Geological and Mining Research. To deal with the threat, a tsunami warning centre is to open next year at Bruyèresle-Chatel, south of Paris. With a €14 million budget, the centre will be linked to 75 seismic stations monitoring undersea movements in the Mediterranean. Aude senator Roland Courteau, one of the moving forces behind the centre, points out the Mediterranean does not deserve its reputation as “a tranquil lake” because it has seen 90 tsunamis during the 20th century. He notes that in 1979, there were 11 deaths when a tidal wave swept the
coast near Nice. “And that was in October,” he said. “Imagine it happening in the summer.” The Riviera is likely to be worst hit by any tidal wave, possibly up to 4m, but experts say Roussillon could experience tsunamis of 1.20m. Effects would be less dramatic in the Aude and Hérault, at up to a metre. Last month, one of the strongest undersea earthquakes for years, registering 5.2 on the Richter scale, rocked Provence and Corsica. Had it reached 6.5, there would have been a tsunami, said Senator Courteau. The new centre will deliver the ability to give the public early warning of any problems arising as a result of earthquakes far out in the Mediterranean, according to Mathieu Sylvander, a seismologist at the observatory in the Midi-Pyrénées.
Campaign to save water THE conseil général of the Gard has launched a campaign emphasising the importance of saving water. The Eau et Tourisme (Water and Tourism) charter encourages the public to use this precious resource sparingly. Consumption is currently 40 million cubic metres a year, with tourists accounting for 13 million. There is a significant risk of shortages this summer and it is estimated that the Gard will need 30% more water by 2030. A guide giving water-saving tips will be available across the department.
The Tarbouriech pink oyster: a rare and expensive treat green energy-powered system replicates the natural sea tides. It is the interaction with the air and the sun that creates a superior oyster, with a subtle, nutty taste, and gives the shells their hue. Locals tend to eat this delicacy with just a squeeze of lemon juice and a little brown bread and salted but-
ter. The classic match for oysters from this area is a Picpoul de Pinet wine, with its citrus notes and refreshingly clean style. Alternatively, the subtle, briny notes found in Pink Diamond oysters sit well with AOC Blanquette de Limoux, the world’s original brut sparkling wine.
6 What’s On
Agde, Place de la Marine ART
Photo: Herman van der Jagt
notice board August 7 – La "Nuit des Arts". Enjoy perusing the display stands of about 30 artists such as sculptors, painters, craftsmen, writers and musicians. Many artists will be exhibiting their often unusual work intermingled with other artists’ performances all set in a bohemian and friendly atmosphere.The musical ambiance will be provided by the worldwide travelling pianist Jérôme Médeville. Open from 18.00 to 2.00 and located at Place de la Marine. FREE. Call 04 67 00 02 48
Hérault Clermont-l'Hérault, lac du Salagou
FAMILY August 4 Join thousands of people who come each year to the Clermont-l'Hérault banks of the huge man-made lake Lac du Salagou to admire a spectacular firework display.The show begins around 22.00 so why not bring a picnic and enjoy a walk around the lake first? Call 04 67 88 87 00.
The medium is the message: Sud Vélo Ne Jetez Plus! members promote environmental good behaviour while they are cycling
August 26-28 – Piano sous les Arbres. During three days the piano takes centre stage with a variety of music genres: classical, jazz, rock and gipsy. Enjoy the delightful melodies performed underneath the trees while tasting some local specialities from Lunel such as wines, Muscat and food.Twenty-two concerts will be performed throughout the whole weekend. Some shows will be for children. Most of the concerts are free except three, which range from €6 to €18. Call 04 67 83 46 83 www.unpianosouslesarbres.com
On your bike to follow the anti-litter cause SUD VÉLO Ne Jetez Plus! is a cycling club with a distinct difference. It began life in 2003 as a website forum for cyclists around Montpellier. This virtual community was united by a passion for cycling and a strong respect for the environment, summed up by the motto “ride fast, ride clean”. Then in 2007 the forum went a stage further, forming Sud Vélo Ne Jetez Plus! – a group of fast-riding eco-warriors whose slogan, Do Not Litter, is a call to change the attitude of cyclists who throw their rubbish on to the roads. The group is invited to races to promote Ne Jetez Plus! and members organise their own events each year. In February there’s a time trial and group race, the Tour d’Hortus, while March sees the Pro Tour Héraultais series, which always starts with a ride
in the Camargue. April brings the Héraultaise Cyclosportive in Gignac, where Sud Vélo is closely involved with the organisation, making it one the “greenest” cycle events of its kind. Throughout the season, the club’s distinctive logo can be seen in the peloton (leaders’ group) in France, and in Spain’s largest cycling sports event, the Quebrantaheusos. Club member Helen Bevis says: “Sud Vélo has a reputation as a group of strong riders, but in reality we’re an auberge espagnol (pot-luck group) where most fit cyclists can find their place among the peloton.” The club holds organised rides around Montpellier every weekend.
Photo: Service Communication
Une Collection Particulière at the Musée des Beaux Arts, Nîmes. More than 100 works chosen from the Anne Gruner-Schlumberger collection, including paintings, sculpture, drawings and engravings by Arp, Braque, Brauner, Dubuffet, Ernst, Giacometti, Klee, Léger, Picasso and Soulages. Runs until early October. Tel 04 66 28 18 32, www.nimes.fr De Circulade en Circulade: rencontres culturelles et festives: A celebration of Languedoc’s walled medieval towns and villages, with wine tast-
Albert André (1869-1954): Nearly 200 post-Impressionist works displayed at the Pont du Gard, Left Bank. Until September 25. Tel 04 66 37 50 99, www.pontdugard.fr Les Fêtes de la Saint Louis: Sète, August 18-23. The annual celebration of the patron saint of Sète, featuring water jousting on the canals, music and fireworks. Tel 04 99 04 71 71 www.ot-sete.fr Festival Bouillon Cube: Causse-dela-Selle, until the end of August. Concerts, circus,theatre, cinema, arts and crafts. Tel 04 67 71 35 42 www.bouilloncube.fr
August 5 – Spend the whole day in the Termes village and castle to enjoy different activities: medieval martial arts, calligraphy, cooking, archery, coat of mail making and more.The musicians, the jugglers, the travelling entertainers and the fire-eaters will liven up the streets of Termes.There will be a craft and local products market, and wooden games for children.The day will end in a medieval ball. Only €2 for access to the castle and activities. FREE for children under 6. Call 04 68 70 09 20 or go to www.medievales.chateau-termes.com
Aude Carcassonne CONCERT August 2 Are you a lover of electro-pop music? Moby, an internationally renowned artist, comes to Carcassonne to perform his music influenced by soul and punk. If you want to enjoy some good music in the magic setting of the ancient theatre in Carcassonne do not miss this special event. Prices from €45 to €55. Booking on 04 68 11 59 15 www.festivaldecarcassonne.fr
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Photo:© Château de Terme
Photo: Château de Termes
ings, concerts, arts and crafts fairs. August 12, Olonzac; August 15, Le Pouget. Tel 04 67 25 31 42 www.circulades.com
Not to be missed... Festival de Carcassonne 2011: More than shows, including 80 events with free admission, running until August 15. Contemporary and classical music, opera, dance, circus and theatre performances. Tel 04 68 11 59 15 www.festivaldecarcassonne.fr
Photo: OT SGVH
August 11 – Discover products from the area and local arts and crafts at this evening market from16.00 to 20.00.There will also be music, activities for children and eating places.Take the opportunity to discover le Pont du Diable, a famous bridge nearby with a breathtaking view, as a free guided visit is provided at 18.00 upon booking. Call 04 67 57 58 83 or 04 99 61 73 01 www.saintguilhem-alleeherault.fr.
For more information, visit www.team.sudvelo.com or email firstname.lastname@example.org
What’s On 7
Mendes SPORT - FISHING
JAZZ CONCERT August 2 Enjoy a concert in the Aven Armand Cave given by Vitrail, a quintet with a varied repertoire.They will play jazz and baroque music along with other styles.The setting is magical and picturesque.The concert starts at 20.30. Prices: €16 for children and €20 for adults. Required booking in advance. Call 04 66 45 61 31 email@example.com
Photo: Mende Cœur de Lozère
Every Wednesday in August – a youth co-ordinator from La Fédération de la Pêche will introduce children aged 6-12 to minnow fishing from 10.00 to 12.00 at Bressal in Mendes. All the equipment will be provided. The price is €7.50 per child. Booking required on 04 66 94 00 23 www.ot-mende.fr
Photo: Syndicat d'Initiative Maury
Photo: Aven Armand
August 1 Marché de Potiers. About 30 ceramists from all over France will exhibit their productions from 09.00, and there will be a workshop for children.Visitors will also have the opportunity for wine-tasting in the cellars and to buy wine. FREE. Call 04 68 50 08 54 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
OUT AND ABOUT
August 4, 7, 11, 25, 28 – Experience a day out in the Camargue with a ride in a horse-drawn carriage.You will go though Le Cailar, see horses and bulls, visit the Nîmes Costières vineyards and enjoy the beautiful landscape.You will taste some local wine and products such as brandade and tapenade.The snacks, drinks and lunch are included in the price. Adults €50, children under 4 €10, children 4-12 years old €25, teenagers 13-16 years old €35. Booking required on 06 65 74 63 68 or 04 66 51 08 19 www.lescaleches.camargue.fr
Photo: Sandrine Rios
August 13 – Enjoy the fragrances and the wonderful colours around you in the Mediterranean landscape as you walk through vineyards, fields and garrigue.This morning walk lasts three hours. Bring some water, a cap and good shoes. FREE. Booking required on 04 66 85 17 94 or 04 66 52 61 38
Gard Beaucaire FAMILY
Photo: Photos ACTA
Every Wednesday in August – Come to encounter the medieval world at the Beaucaire Castle and you will enjoy many different activities throughout the day. Among the featured attractions are a historical presentation of the fortress, a demonstration of dagger fighting, duels, knight school for children, introduction to the crossbow, historical playlets, history and archaeology museum and more. Opening times: 09.45-12.30 and 14.00-18.00. Prices from €11 (children under 12 and students) to €14. Call 04 66 59 90 07 email@example.com
Pyrénées-Orientales Bolquère SPORT
August 7 – Pyrénées 2000 en roues libres. For all you freewheeling cycling lovers. From 10.00 to 22.00 different cycling activities will give a certain rhythm to the day: all-terrain bike show, trial park (open to everybody from 8 years old) and family air jump (from 7 years old) to perform jumps and figures very safely. FREE. Call 04 68 30 12 42
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Horse sense THE PAST 20 years have seen equestrianism enjoying a huge surge in popularity throughout France, with the numbers of registered riders increasing by almost 400%. The French Equestrian Federation (FFE) now has more than 650,000 riders on its books. For British residents who wish to take up riding seriously, however, it is worth bearing in mind that the rules governing the sport here are different from those in the UK. The first port of call is the local poney club, which will generally welcome children as young as four. Anyone attending a riding club is required to have a licence pratiquant, which costs €25 for children and €36 for adults. Sarah Pugh runs a riding club at Saumort in the Poitou-Charentes region. She says: “Yes, children join a pony club at any age from four upwards, starting on Shetland ponies, often riding without stirrups for some time until their balance is sound. “The clubs link in with the school calendar and lesson costs include an annual subscription, an FFE licence and a fee for the term. During the holidays, the clubs run day-courses, but normal lessons stop. Annual costs can vary immensely from region to region, but in my area the cost would be around €1,000.” Most clubs provide the pony and tack, but you will need to hire or borrow a riding hat and wear suitable footwear. Riders in France are quickly taught how to groom a pony or horse, as they are expected to get their horse groomed and tacked for lessons, unlike in the
UK, where it is done for you. More experienced riders who wish to participate in one of the many competitions that take place all over the country need a licence competition from the FFE and are expected to pass riding tests. “The FFE. have a fantastic country-wide system called Galop tests,” says Sarah. “The main ones are Galop 1-7, which most people take. In order to compete at a higher level you have to have passed these tests.” In theory, riders taking the Galop 7 should pass practical and theory tests in French, but many riding clubs simply watch them to verify their skills and, if they are satisfied, apply for a competition licence. Alternatively, British residents in France who are experienced riders can ask the British Horse Society for documentation showing that they have competed in affiliated competitions in the UK. “There is no such thing as an unaffiliated event in France,” explains Sarah, “otherwise the showjumping competitions are very similar to the UK.” A competition licence costs €80 and you apply through your riding club. You must provide a medical certificate and, for children, a parental permission form must be signed. For youngsters, there is no shortage of local pony competitions and they can lead to participation in national events for under-18s, such the annual competition held in July at the Parc Equestre Lamotte-Beuvron in the Sologne. Xavier Bourdon, public relations manager for
The Fédération Française d’Equitation says riding in France is en plein boom, with the number of licences increasing year on year. Almost one person in three rides regularly or occasionally. Surveys show that riding is the preferred pastime of parents for their children and it is currently the third most popular sport in the country. Half the population say they are ready to consider a holiday on horseback this summer
Photo copyright © Pixizone.com
Riding and competing in equestrian events are becoming increasingly popular in France, but in order to enjoy them to the full, you have to stick to the rules, as John Gilmore discovers
Pixizone, an equestrian events company, says: “The French national pony championships cover all disciplines – showjumping, eventing and dressage – with many categories depending on the age of riders and the level of skill.” In August, Lamotte-Beuvron is host to the Sologn’Pony French national breeding championship, featuring pedigree breeds such as New Forest, Shetland, Welsh Cob and Connemara, and also some competitions. This year’s championship takes place on August 1821. Young riders with talent who wish to progress to senior showjumping events will need parents with deep pockets. A good three-year-old pony with showjumping potential will cost between €20,000 and €50,000, while the very best will command prices up to €100,000, or even more for an animal with a proven record in competition. On top of that, there are the costs involved in stabling and transporting animals to events. That is why many competitors are children of former riders and landowners. On the other
hand, showjumping horses can still be competing at 10 years old or more. Sarah Pugh, though, points out: “You can do a lot more competing here without your own horse than in the UK. Some people do choose to buy their own, but not all. “Many have their own land so can keep a horse at home, but if they want to compete they have the horse in livery at the club, and that can be quite expensive.” Equestrianism is extremely well organised in France, but it is also true that it is quite tightly regulated. Even Sarah, a very experienced riding instructor who set up a small livery and riding club at Saumort eight years ago, had official hurdles to overcome. “The main problem was that initially my English qualifications were not recognised here, so all I could do was hire horses to people to ride alone,” she said. “The regulations here were enormously strict and complicated. Over the years, my husband Zak and I have managed to establish a small loyal customer base of liveries and riders by
Photo copyright © John Gilmore
Left: a competitor clears a fence at the Sologn’Pony event, held in August. Above: youngsters are introduced to riding at Chantilly racecourse
Where to go riding in Languedoc-Roussillon word of mouth. Now, though, I have the right to teach, the right to run shows and to award Galop tests. The insurance costs are not too scary, so we are hoping the business will expand and we’ll be able to do some riding holidays too.” It is important that anyone thinking about investing in riding, and especially of buying a horse, is aware of the commitments involved, particularly the costs. Otherwise, things can go badly wrong. Ann Heighington, who runs the Anglo-French equestrian charity Epona Trust in La Lucerne d’Outremer, near Avranches, Normandy, says: “Ponies and horses arrive at our trust as a result of financial difficulties or a family split. Sometimes the animal is neglected and may have to be removed from the owners. “We provide hay to animals that are left without feed and we also pay for vets to visit a sick animal if the owners have no money or refuse to pay. Any equine that comes to the refuge will be provided with housing, feed and medication.” More information and news about riding in France is available at the French Horse and Country website, aimed specifically at the English-speaking community, www.frenchhorseandcountry.com
Pole Hippique de Mauguio Equestrian centre managed by international rider and fluent English speaker Christian Janin. Activities range from pony games for children to international showjumping contests. Tel: 04 67 56 67 35, http://equitation34.fr Mas de la Barque This outdoor centre is situated on Mont Lozère and offers gîte accommodation and a variety of activities year-round, including riding for all levels and ages. Tel 04 66 46 92 72, www.lemasdelabarque.com Hit the Cathar Trail The Sentier Cathar is one of Languedoc’s best-known horse trails, passing ancient Cathar castle ruins as it weaves its way from the Mediterranean through the foothills of the Pyrénées to Foix. Lodging is in gîtes or family homes. Tel +44 1462 701 110 www.farandride.com/riding-holidays/france/cathar_trails Canter your way through the Camargue Discover the Camargue region’s flora and fauna on horseback with Pony Ranch; also offers pony rides for children. Tel 04 66 53 86 89, www.ponyranch-aiguesmortes.com Visit a stud farm The Haras d’Uzès is the only French national stud farm in the
south of France, with more than 70 horses of different breeds. Afternoon tours are available from mid-March to early July, with guided horseback tours June-September. Tel 04 66 22 68 88, www.haras-nationaux.fr Life on a ranch Stay on a cattle ranch in the Haut-Languedoc Nature Park and ride Western-style (experienced riders only). Tel +44 (0)1767 600606, www.unicorntrails.com/europe/france/westernranch Explore the Camargue by horse-drawn carriage For a more sedate equestrian experience, try Les Calèches de Camargue: observe the Camargue area’s bulls, horses and landscape from the comfort of a horse-drawn carriage. Tel 04 66 51 08 19, http://www.lescaleches.camargue.fr Equisud: the annual rendez-vous for all horse lovers The biggest horse-related show in the south of France, held annually in Montpellier. Tel 04 67 17 67 17, www.cheval-montpellier.com Comité Régional du Tourisme Equestre LanguedocRoussillon Information about riding trails, clubs, organised treks, riding schools and gîtes (in French only). www.telr.net
How to turn your children into gourmets After she was chosen as first BBC Masterchef in 1990 JOAN BUNTING was soon writing a food column and doing BBC local radio. Now the former advisory teacher has retired and is able to spend more time at her home in France but is still keen to tell Advertiser readers about good food SUMMER holidays should be the perfect time for relaxed, happy, al fresco meals, a time to introduce your children, grandchildren and other assorted small people to healthy, abundant seasonal produce and regional specialities. But unless they are long-time gourmets, your efforts are unlikely to elicit coos of appreciation, rather groans of disgust. “Don’t like that.” “Yuck! I want baked beans.” “I hate tomatoes.” “What’s that funny stuff on the lettuce?” Until they were about four years old, our children and grandchildren ate just about anything, from snails to quails and olives. Everything we offered was tried and enjoyed. Then their tastes seemed to change. We tried to fight back in a subtle way, starting with getting them to help Grandad in the potager. At Easter they dug, planted and sowed seeds, and when summer came they reaped the rewards of their efforts, picking and digging up all the produce. We extended this education to market visits
where they chose less familiar things. At the the fish stall it was gambas or squid, at the cheese stall there was “mouldy” cheese or creamy goat cheeses. Then they moved on to the fruit stall where we encouraged them to try nectarines if the peaches were too “furry”. Apricots were “cool” and melons were always popular. What about reine-claudes? They look sour but taste like honey. Sometimes closing your eyes and trusting helps. In France we are lucky because merchants realise the importance of encouraging future customers. Samples and smiles are always on offer for nervous young palates. Here, with patience and imagination, fussy kids can be turned into shoppers and cooks and even real foodies. Simple things such as allowing children as young as two to make dressing for a salad, tossing it messily and serving it on their own, make them feel good. I must confess that, having been a teacher for 30 years, I rely on my training and instincts when it comes to helping children to be brave and creative with food. Of course this usually involves a bit of risk and a lot of mess, but what fun it is to be allowed to wear a chef ’s hat and to be trusted with Granny’s big knife and, with careful supervision, to be allowed to cut up the vegetables they have picked or bought for a ratatouille inspired by the film. Suddenly a child who has been unable to look at an aubergine becomes an addict. Let them cook what they have picked or chosen, let them taste what you have chosen when eating out – and remember that we all have to try a new taste about 15 times before we accept it.
Joan’s grandson Haydon was already playing his part in the kitchen at the age of seven
Quick, easy and delicious corn cobs Now for a recipe loved by all ages in this house. Fun and simple to do, it can be cooked in the oven or under the grill as well as on the barbecue. Barbie Sweetcorn (serves 8) 8 corn cobs with husks 250g butter 1 tsp Dijon mustard 2 tbsp chopped fresh herbs
2 tbsp lemon juice Seasoning Mix together all the butter ingredients (clean hands are fine). Peel back the corn husks but leave intact, remove the silk and soak the cobs in water. Rub a tablespoon of the butter on each cob. Cover with the husks then wrap in foil. Cook on the coals, or in the oven, for 10-15 minutes or until tender, unwrap and serve with any remaining butter.
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ANNETTE MORRIS has lived in Languedoc for more than three years. She works as a freelance internet marketing consultant and website developer helping businesses optimise their online presence. Annette co-runs www.LaFranglaise.com and the Languedoc group of the Survive France network. Earlier this year she started Languedoc Jelly, designed to promote the co-working concept to expats and Anglophones in France. In this regular column she shares her tips for the business community and would welcome readers’ questions and feedback
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Smoothing the path for expats Photo: Rob Byron - Fotolia.com
I WOULD like some advice on capital gains tax (CGT). My wife and I own a house in the UK, where we have been residents, and also have a villa near Perpignan, which we have just put on the market. The aim is to buy another house along the Pyrénées-Orientales coastline and move permanently to France. The money from the house sale will not be brought back into the UK – it will stay in France. Will we still have to pay capital gains tax in full? We have owned our house in Perpignan for eight years and are not planning to purchase any property in the UK again. The Spectrum IFA Group responds: In France, the sale of your “principal residence” is free from capital gains tax (CGT). However, it will only be classed as such once you are registered in the French tax system and have submitted a French income tax return from that address. Strictly speaking, the notaire dealing with the sale can request two years of tax returns, although in practice most will accept one year. Otherwise, CGT is charged at a set rate of 19%, although currently the gain is reduced by 10% for each year of ownership from the sixth year onwards. Therefore, after 15 years of ownership, there is no CGT liability. If you have not yet moved to France and completed a French income tax return, selling your Perpignan property now will make you liable for French CGT. As you have owned this property for eight years, you will have to pay CGT on 70% of the gain. Since you plan to move to France permanently you could avoid French CGT by initially moving into your Perpignan property, making this your principal residence. After you move into your next French property you would have up to one year to sell your Perpignan property without having any CGT liability (providing that you had registered in the French tax system by the time of the sale). However, you must weigh this up against the risk of not being able to sell the Perpignan property within the oneyear period since, if sold beyond this, as a French resident you would also have social contributions to pay of 12.3% of the “tapered” gain. Because this is potentially a tax bill of 31.3% (rather than 19%) only you can decide what is best in your circumstances. You have not mentioned if you plan to sell your UK property. If you did and you were a French resident at the time of the sale, you would have the combined French taxes to pay of 31.3% of any “tapered” gain. So if you have owned your UK property for at least 15 years, then you will not have any French taxes to pay. Regarding rules on UK CGT, once you are no longer resident there is no liability in respect of any gain arising from a UK property sale, providing that you do not return to the UK for at least five complete tax years after selling the property. If you do return within this period you will be liable for UK CGT in respect of the property sold. Thanks to the double taxation treaty between France and the UK, however, you will receive a credit against UK CGT for any French taxes that you have already paid on the gain.
Working as a freelance or setting up a business in France might sometimes seem like a daunting undertaking when you come from somewhere else, but if you use all the tools at your disposal life can become a lot simpler WITH glorious summer weather, improved transport links and fabulous food and wine, it is not difficult to see why approximately 30,000 Englishspeakers have opted to relocate or purchase a second home in LanguedocRoussillon. Property prices have increased by 120% during the past 10 years, making this region one of the most expensive in France. Yet unemployment levels remain high and 20% of the population lives below the poverty line. Following the challenges to the exchange rate over the past few years, rising numbers of expats are now running small to medium-sized businesses and delaying retirement, not often through choice. Freelances and expatriate entrepreneurs face common challenges which can seem insurmountable, but there may be free and easy solutions available close to hand. Love thy expat neighbour? The vast majority of expats working in the region are self-employed, with most offering services in the real estate or leisure and tourism industries. Not only do expat freelances face the typical drawbacks of being self-employed (isolation, long hours, lack of training) they are also competing against each other within a relatively limited market. Most small businesses need to remain flexible and responsive to changes in their
Photo: Annerp - Fotolia.com
field of activity. A host of factors could be influencing your business direction for the next 12 months. When was the last time you reviewed your business plan? You can download a business plan template from www.businesslink.gov.uk Value of the expat euro Whatever your profession or skillset, a chargeable service in your home country might be perceived as an assumed “favour” by a fellow expat. Many business owners are familiar with the question: “Can I pick your brains?”, but giving free advice could lose them several hours of paid work a week. There are dozens of well-populated and informative websites offering advice about living and working in France, and many have open forums to exchange ideas and information. Practical advice and daily news items in English are given at www.connexionfrance.com, while www.survivefrance.com, is free to join and has a dedicated business owners group and citizens’ advice section. Get sharing and get social The owner of a small business seldom
has an endless travel budget or the time to attend networking events. Within France, the internet has brought hundreds of English-speakers together via social networking platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. More than 50% of users log-in to Facebook every day. Used as a marketing platform, Facebook has a business reach within Languedoc to more than 300,000 English/French speakers aged 35-plus. Twitter is one of the best free online tools to quickly share information and research your market and a good “Twitter work-out” should take less than 20 minutes. For basic guides on how to use and make the most of Twitter for business see http://business.twitter.com Co-working initiatives “Jelly” came to Languedoc in April 2011 as an initiative to get freelances and entrepreneurs out of a home office and bring them together to work alongside each other in a convivial atmosphere. The Jelly concept began in New York, where two IT freelances sought to escape the isolation of working alone and share ideas with their friends. Jelly has now spread across Europe and numerous events have taken place in Hérault, with more to follow in the Aude and Pyrénées-Orientales later this year. Jelly is a free event and open to anyone, although particularly popular with “laptopreneurs”. For freelances looking for a more permanent place to work away from home, Montpellier Numérique is an innovative project that includes the development of a new co-working space in Montpellier centre which offers interesting opportunities for freelances (of all nationalities) in this region to meet and collaborate.
Useful Websites www.montpellier.cci.fr www.languedocjelly.com www.urssaf.fr www.startupbusiness.com www.the-languedoc-page.com
To contact Annette Morris, call 07 86 14 16 39 or email Solutions@LaFranglaise.com
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DIRECTORY PAGES Pages 12 &13
LANGUEDOC DIRECTORY English-speaking firms near you For your security, we check that the French businesses in this section are officially registered with the authorities
Find registered tradespeople quickly and easily By advertising in our directory you get the chance to run advertorials (the articles you see on these pages.) 1/3 page, maximum 500 words plus photo, €200HT 2/3 page, maximum 1,000
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Ward Building Services Renovation to Decoration Extensions, Kitchens, Bathrooms, tiling, stonework, Patios, terraces. Free estimates
General builder & Carpenter Established for 10 years in the Aude Can manufacture shutters, doors, stairs, windows and kitchens
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Dynamic and varied courses in very small groups throughout the year whatever your age and French level
Perfect Property Management Quality House & Swimming Pool Management in the Languedoc
Tel: +33 (0) 4 99 57 05 89 Mobile: +33 (0) 6 68 89 23 30 Web: perfectpropertymanagement.com Email: email@example.com Siret: 51215779300013
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Tel: Mike 04 68 24 45 05 / 06 33 28 48 72 Email: email@example.com Siret: 50400085200013
RENOVATION - KITCHENS, BATHROOMS, TOTAL RENOVATION AND CARPENTRY, DECKING, TERRACES AND MUCH MORE
Tel. 06 72 42 07 04 - 04 68 37 97 83 DEPT 66
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Graham Fox – Fully Qualified 25+ Years Experience Friendly, Informative Reliable High Professional Standard E-mail: email@example.com Tel/Fax: 04 68 45 46 28 Depts: 11, 34 - Siret: 49443828600010
ALPACA WOOL and KNITWEAR Knitting Yarns, Accessories, Fleeces For Spinning www.polfagesalpacas.com email: firstname.lastname@example.org Siret 529 235 053
(4p/min) or email email@example.com
Alpaca wool makes best-selling odourless socks It will soon be time to think about woolly winter wear, but have you ever tried hats and scarves made from the fleece of an Alpaca? Not only is it non-itchy but it can make odourless socks too. Alpaca owner Jane Potts explains the advantages of this fascinating creature's wool
An Alpaca’s fibre produces wool that is hypoallergenic, light, durable and warm
AS THE result of a move to France in 2008 from the UK to the Languedoc and a passion for alpacas, Jane Potts has 16 alpacas and a growing business selling products made from their fine luxurious fibre. She has a range of products from hats and scarves to socks and throws, all of which are available for sale from the online shop on her website. There are two breeds of alpaca, Huacaya and the Suri that produce the sought after fibre often found in the haute couture of the fashion industry. They are very hardy animals originally from the Andes where it is hot in the day and cold at night. The fibre does not retain water, is thermal even when wet and
ing socks are made in the UK and the hats, gloves and scarves are made through a 'Fair Trade' company in Peru which supports the poorer communities. Although Jane is not making these socks from the fibre of her own alpacas at the moment she does sell knitting yarns and throws that have been made from the fibre of her own herd keeping the natural colours of white, fawn, brown, grey and black. Jane is keen for people to come and see the animals for themselves and to try the products to see just how warm and comfortable the wool is to wear.
can resist ultra violet light effectively. There are many advantages to buying products made with alpaca wool. It is hypoallergenic and has a low prickle factor so if people are allergic to ordinary wool they usually find they can wear alpaca. Another plus is that it is a very high quality fibre being on a par with cashmere, so extremely soft and warm, and also has the strength second to silk. It is a hollow fibre so has great insulating properties providing warmth without being heavy. “The best selling items I have at the moment are walking socks, they are very warm with a cushioned sole and durable so will last a long time,” said Jane. Alpaca fibre naturally repels bacteria and odour so it is ideal for socks as they do not require frequent washing. The walk-
www.polfagesalpacas.com firstname.lastname@example.org 04 68 60 48 90
All Alpaca wool products are non-itchy
Building works and carpentry solutions From maintenance to renovation and furniture creation, if your property is in the Aude then James Gordon Roe can help you with any aspect of building or carpentry work HAVING spent the last 25 years in the building industry and also as a professional carpenter, James
Gordon Roe understands all aspects of the building trade and how to manage a project from the start through to completion. He has now been established in the Aude for ten years and during that time has built up a good reputation for providing everything from maintenance to renovation and conversions. “We also have a 1.5 tonne mini-digger available for excavation work,” said James. If you live in the Aude, or whether your second home is based in the Aude and you live elsewhere, and need building or renovation work to be carried out on your property, James James produces all kinds of furniture from can handle the whole wardrobe doors to shutters and bookshelves process for you.
“We understand that having building work on your property can make for a stressful time, especially if you don’t speak the language or if it’s a secondary home,” said James. “By sourcing all materials and offering weekly emails, with photos so you can keep up with progress of the building works, we try to make the process as stress free for clients as possible.” James’s expertise does not stop at property exteriors, another area where he is skilled to help clients improve their home is on the inside. As a professional carpenter he can create a wide range of items for any room in the house and his company regularly manufactures shutters, doors, windows, bookshelves, stairs and kitchens to clients’ specifications. Another aspect to James’s company is the maintenance service that
James provides building and carpentry services in the Aude necessary. he offers. Properties are always in To discuss your building and need of upkeep and James knows carpentry needs call or email James how to solve the problems homeand he can provide you with advice owners are sometimes unsure of and a very competitive quote. how to fix. So whether you need to eliminate rot in the railings or have 04 68 78 72 51 a door that needs hanging, James 06 19 95 87 50 and his team can do the work and email@example.com source all the materials too where
Run your property perfectly cleaners work from a tried and testPERFECT Property Management is ed cleaning checklist and are spotbased in the department of Herault checked to ensure high standards in the Languedoc and operates over are consistently met. “This is very a wide area with the majority of important as the way we present a clients situated between Bédarieux, property reflects on the all-imporNarbonne and Sète. Its services, for tant ‘first impression’, which can properties both used as holiday lets colour the whole experience for the and as private homes, include key incoming holiday maker,” said holding (which is offered free of owner Trudi Andrews. charge), changeovers, house mainteIt is also important when renting nance and running repairs, pool out a property to ensure that the cleaning and maintenance, project pool and garden are well kept and management, garden maintenance, inviting. “A well maintained pool security and winter checks. will always be a source of delight to When you are renting out your renters and we home, changestrive to present overs need to be and manage the fast and effective property and so the property is pool in the best well presented for A well maintained pool possible light.” the next guests. will always be a source of The company’s The company’s pool team clean team of trained delight to renters
at an agreed frequency, which is at least once a week, so that is maintained to a very high standard. As the Languedoc area is often very dry, gardens can suffer without the right care. “A neat and tidy garden can help form a positive first impression and give some insight into the care and quality invested throughout the rest of the property,” said Trudi, who works with several accomplished gardeners who can even suggest themes for a garden or carry out a complete makeover. The company can also make regular security or winter checks during periods of unoccupancy to ensure the property is problem free. When it comes to general repairs on a property, Perfect Property Management tries to keep customers’ costs down as much as possible. “We always endeavour to
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Whether you rent out your property or you are based in it some or all of the time, Perfect Property Management offers a range of property management services including pool cleaning, project management, winter checks and running repairs
Perfect Property Management’s properties make a good first impression resolve the problem ourselves before calling out a tradesperson, but we have a large team of professional artisans at the ready if necessary,” said Trudi. For the management of bigger projects, such as building work, the company can source quotations and tradespeople and manage the project to make sure it runs smoothly and within budget. “A properly managed project takes away the worry of finding artisans
and communicating in a foreign language - contact with the local and national bureaucracy can be very daunting,” said Trudi. “We are experienced in managing both large and small projects, from building houses, hospitals, operating theatres, schools and manufacturing sites to swimming pools and gyms.” www.perfectpropertymanagement.com
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D I Y tips
Tell nuisance insects to buzz off this summer Photo: Kzenon - Fotolia.com
Wasps If you are eating outside the last thing you want is to have to wear or do anything special to protect yourself from insects. Instead we suggest three easy tips: Use simple traps, apply repellent to exposed body parts and eliminate any nests you find. You can buy ‘lure traps’ so the pests are more likely to go for these than your food. If you use a trap, add a couple of drops of washing-up liquid. This reduces the surface tension of the water so wasps actually sink in and cannot skate on it. Also, look for nests under the tiles on your - and your neighbour’s - roof. Use an expert to get any removed. Ants Pest control experts advise
Reclaim your garden and enjoy the great outdoors without being troubled by mosquitoes. Follow our tips. putting sugar in an area so the ants go there instead of to your patio. A glass of elderflower cordial, for example, left to stand around for a few hours will catch a lot of black ants. Mosquitoes It makes sense to keep the
grass cut as short as possible and remove any containers with stagnant water in which mosquitoes love to breed. Used alone, no method is likely to be effective. Plants around your terrace will attract insects so you could move these on to your lawn if
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you have visitors. Mosquitoes pick up on body functions such as lactic acid, CO² output and body heat so there is very little we can do other than using repellent. You can use citronella candles and a mixture of different products on the market. Lemongrass is another natural mosquito repellent which can be planted around the patio. For a more environmentally friendly option, you could build a bat house. Bats naturally control mosquitoes and the houses are often available from garden centres and bird box suppliers. You can also build your own using scrap wood. See tinyurl.com/bathouseguide Follow the instructions to put the houses up at the correct height and amount of sunlight, then sit back and watch in the sunset as the bats do their work. Flies Electronic fly killers buzz in the corner of the patio but avoid those which have an electric current as the insects will explode. This is unpleasant to look at and
Bring back shine to terracotta tiles Photo: antmoose/Flickr
AUGUST is a month when we would all like to be out on the terrace but mosquitoes, wasps, ants and flying insects can take the pleasure of a garden barbecue away. Here are a few tips to claim your patio area back from nuisance insects.
Outdoors or in, terracotta tiles can be difficult to clean Photo: LaurenWebb14 - Flickr.com
Build your own bat house smell and you can end up with bits of leg and body in your food. Glue boards which you buy in a hardware or camping shop are probably the most effective. Fleas and tics If you suddenly start getting bitten in the garden or grass surrounding your patio, a fox or other wild animal may be regularly following the same track through your garden. A professional would spray a residual chemical on to the area and you can make sure the animal doesn’t return by putting something in its way. Tips compiled with help from Simon Berenyi of Wasp Kill UK – www.waspkilluk.co.uk
MANY old houses throughout France have old terracotta tiled floors. This lovely flooring can, over time, become stained and dull and, being porous, can be difficult to clean. However, instead of replacing it with more practical modern tiling, have a go at restoring the tiles and bringing them back to their former glory. The first step is to get rid of any old dirt and watermarks. There is only one way to achieve this and that is through elbow grease and scrubbing. Use either a stone floor cleaner or black soap and warm water. Apply the soap or solution and leave for at least 15 minutes, then go back over the area with a scrubbing brush. If marks are stubborn, apply pure soap to them, wait and scrub again. Finish this step by mopping up the residue and rinsing the floor with warm water, then dry mop the floor. Next, prepare the floor for oiling. The tiles must be completely dry after the first step – it is worth waiting at least a couple of days to make sure this is the case – and the floor should be protected during this period. Once dry, the floors must be as free from dust as possible. Traditionally, boiled linseed oil is used for protecting terracotta floors. It also gives them a nice finish. To make the oil easier to apply, leave it overnight somewhere warm and apply to a warm floor that has either been heated up naturally by the sun or turn on the heating in the room a few hours before application. Apply freely with a paintbrush – the more the tiles absorb the more resistant they will be. After application, wait for about 20 minutes and check to see whether there is any excess oil. If so, go over these patches again with a brush to spread it out. If, after another 20 minutes, there are still patches of excess oil, remove with a piece of cloth. Leave the tiles overnight, or for at least eight hours, before applying a second coat. Once the two coats have been applied and have dried, it is a good idea to apply a coat of oil-based stone floor sealer. Finally, test the floor for water-tightness. Simply pour a small amount of water onto a tile and check 15 minutes later whether it is still visible or not. If it is, your floor is water tight. If it has been absorbed then it is wise to apply another coat of sealer. Maintain the floor by mopping up any spills straight away, hoover and mop when needed and every year test for water-tightness.
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It is vital to use properly registered tradespeople
Problems with artisan’s work The artisan who we employed to replace the roof of our house has finished the work but there are obvious defects. He is pressurising us to make the final stage payment, but we are not happy about this what can we do? I AM presuming that you have a signed devis and that the artisan is properly registered and insured. If the works are finished, then the next stage is to organise the reception, this is the official meeting where the works are signed off. In your case you will sign the documents with reserves (avec reserves) indicating all the visible defects that the artisan should then remedy. If the artisan fails to do so then you should send him a registered letter (lettre recommandée avec accusé de réception) demanding that he returns to finish the roof. If you are withholding the final payment this may well be an incentive for him to comply. If this fails and any amicable solution seems hopeless, then your only recourse is to take him to court. The first stage of such a court case will be the appointment of a building expert who will convene one or several meetings on site in the presence of all parties and their solicitors as well as the artisan’s insurance company to assess the works and prescribe what needs to be completed. The expert’s fees can be as much as 6000€ and, unfortunately, you will have to pay this up front as the person requesting the intervention of the expert. You will be reimbursed if the court finds in your favour, but you should be aware that this type of court proceedings is lengthy and expensive. The expert will draw up his first draft report and all parties will then make their own written observations. Once the report is finalised, if the expert has found in your favour the insurance company may well prefer to settle the case immediately rather than engaging more legal fees. If this is not the case then you will have to go back to court to obtain an enforceable decision, this can take several months. It is essential that until the expert has finished his report you do not employ another artisan to finish the works, and you should not try and fix any defects yourselves. The risk is that the artisan’s insurance would refuse to pay on the basis that it cannot be proven which part of the works was carried out by their client. My last words relate to the first sentence of this article. Do not under any circumstances work with an artisan who is not officially registered, make sure you sign a detailed devis and always request to see a copy of their up-to-date insurance policy. If you do not and something goes wrong then, at best, you will probably find yourself out of pocket, at worse you could be fined following criminal proceedings.
Prades There are 3 large bedrooms, 2 en suite and an additional bathroom on the ground floor. In addition there is a lounge area and a large mediterranean-style kitchen.
Limoux The house contains 4 bedrooms with 4 bathrooms, a living-room, fitted kitchen, beautiful stone courtyard, little garden full south. Possibility for 2 more bedrooms in the attic. Sold furnished.
ENERGY RATING = Not given
Narbonne Villa with 130 square metres of living space comprising of three bedrooms, two bathrooms, spacious lounge, seperate dining area. Modern kitchen, utility room.
Céret This house comprises 3 bedrooms, bathroom, 2 WC's, kitchen, living/dining room with original wood burner. Also a sunny terrace with built in barbeque, approximately 20m².
ENERGY RATING = D & C
Carcassonne Large restored village house comprising spacious living room with insert fire place, lounge, kitchen, office, 5 bedrooms, 3 bathrooms, summer kitchen and workshop.
Nimes There are 6 bedrooms, an office, kitchen, conservatory, 2 bathrooms, 2 shower rooms, a spacious living room with beamed ceiling and stone fireplace.
ENERGY RATING = Not given
ENERGY RATING = F & C
ENERGY RATING = Not given
ENERGY RATING = Not given
PROPERTIES AROUND FRANCE
Brantome, Dordogne A fabulous historical 2 Bedroom property set over 3 floors, formerly part of a 17th century convent, overlooking a medieval Chateau.
Vic-Fezensac, Gers The villa comprises 2 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, living room of 31m² and kitchen. Adjoining garage of approx 41m² which could be easily converted to provide additional bedrooms.
ENERGY RATING = E
Bailli the Renaissance Cottage next to Château de Bellenaves now has a modern kitchen, large bathroom with shower and tub, 3 bedrooms, lounge with fireplace, central heating and ADSL internet connection
Vence, Alpes-Maritimes Beautiful 72m² 2 bedroom flat. Located on the first floor of a residence of good standing, the living/dining room and one bedroom have direct access to a 13m² terrace.
ENERGY RATING = Not given
Pont-Audemer Spacious `colombage` house set in 2200m2. 6/7 rooms, 3 bathrooms, 2 WCs, kitchen, 2 reception rooms, habitable space - 300m2, cave and garage.
Avranches Two houses on 8 acres, substantial outbuildings, 2 fishing lakes in the woods. The Cottage - 2 bedrooms The Mill, 30yds away - 4 beds
ENERGY RATING = Not given
ENERGY RATING = Not given
ENERGY RATING = Not given
ENERGY RATING = Not given
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Winning ways with wine Learning how to identify what makes a good wine can be intimidating for those of us unsure about aroma, texture or taste. In the first of a series on people breaking new ground in LanguedocRoussillon, LOUISE HURREN meets Hicham Roubal, of the Vinipolis wine tourism centre FLORENSAC is in the heart of the Picpoul de Pinet wine area, the perfect place for the mysteries of wine-tasting to be revealed. Hicham Roubal is an energetic ambassador for the area’s wine, and he and his team at the Florensac coopérative are determined to reveal the skill of wine-tasting to a wide audience. “There’s a lot of mystery and confusion surrounding wine,” says Mr Roubal, “so we’re trying to encourage the public to enjoy tasting and learn a little bit more about wine, but in a fun and friendly way.” Defining Vinipolis is not easy. Is it a wine shop, a co-op, a restaurant, a tasting room or an education centre? It is all of these. There are wine coopératives dotted the length and breadth of Languedoc-Roussillon, but the cave coopérative in Florensac, near Pézenas, is unique in the area. In 2006 Hicham Roubal left his job as head of a winery in the PyrénéesOrientales and came to join this
Hicham Roubal, director of Vinipolis in Florensac, wants to make wine more accessible and enjoyable innovative project where the art of dégustation is taught. Housed in an ultra-modern building beside the traditional architecture of Florensac’s wine coopérative, Vinipolis covers 900m2 on twostoreys. It was designed to inform the public about the wines of the Hérault department, while boosting sales of what is an economically
important product. This resolutely non-snobby wine centre has a light and airy wine shop complete with interactive tasting stations. Visitors can also eat at Bistrot d’Alex, a brasserie where local ingredients are served, such as seafood from nearby Agde and the Bassin de Thau, with co-op wines sold by the glass or bottle at “cellar
door” prices. The three-course menu for €19 is good value. But before eating, it is worth taking the time to work your way through some questions on the wines, so that even the uninitiated can learn how to taste in a more professional way. Each tasting station has a computer terminal focusing on a specific
theme: local, international, whites, rosés and reds, single variety and blended wines. The interactive programmes are available in English, French and German, with staff on hand to help “Our objective is to make wine more accessible and enjoyable,” says Mr Roubal, who has seen the project go from strength to strength in the four years since its launch. “It’s a concept that works,” he says proudly, citing visitor numbers of 30,000 in 2007, rising to 50,000 last year. These figures may be set to soar. Vinipolis won two awards in the viti-vinicultural sector at the Hérault Conseil Général’s VinCoeurs 2011 competition. Winners were announced in Montpellier in June, where Mr Roubal collected accolades for Best Wine Tourism project and a special award for innovation. Mr Roubal and his team are kept busy running a programme of special events. Vinipolis is hosting “wine and dine with live music” nights in August and September (call 04 67 77 00 20 for details). Looking ahead, Mr Roubal expects Vinipolis to see an influx of visitors from further afield. Plans have been announced to twin Florensac with the Chinese county of Anxi, renowned for its production of Oolong tea. The conseil général hopes to foster links between the two, citing similarities in the production, tasting methods and health benefits of tea and wine.
Published on Aug 1, 2011