Category Archives: Living in France

P&O Ferries New Special Offer

After the news that P&O are soon to be challenged on the Dover-Calais route by two other ferry companies, it is hardly surprising that they would come up with what is known in the media as a “spoiler”.

Having had only SeaFrance with their unreliable timetable, ill-maintained ships and appalling customer service,  as competitors for the last few years, P&O now faces some eager new challengers on the Dover-Calais route.  Not surprisingly they are responding with a pre-emptive “Special Offer” in an attempt to to retain as much of their market share as possible during the new lines’ start-up period.

The limited duration P&O offer comes into effect from today, coinciding with the launch of their brand new ship the Spirit of France (commencing service on 9 February), which joins her spectacular sister ship Spirit of Britain.

The offer is available online from 10am today and is only available to book for a short time, so make sure you don’t miss out on a great opportunity.

Subject to restricted space, sailings and dates. Price shown is only valid for travel on the Spirit of France or the Spirit of Britain. Book by the 14th February with all travel to be completed by the 13th December. Price shown includes £2.50 web discount. P&O Ferries reserve the right to withdraw or amend the offer at any time without notice.   From £39/47 euros each way for peak periods: 30th March – 15th April 2012, 1st June – 10th June 2012, 20th July – 2nd September 2012.


Vote Socialist and Freeze to Death!

France's Nuclear Power Stations

Yesterday, Tuesday 7 February, with most of France at freezing or below freezing temperatures, a record was broken. France consumed more electrical enrgy than ever before in a single day.

At 19h00 on Tuesday demand reached a record 100500MW.  It would have been more, but in several areas the distribution system was unable to cope with demand and thousands of homes were without power.

Although it is well-known that France generates most of its electricity in nuclear power stations, at the peak of Monday’s demand these non-polluting generating plants could only supply 60% of the total needed. Hydro-electric and tidal plants contributed a further 13%.  All France’s remaining fossil fuel (coal, gas) fired power stations were incapable of supplying more than an additional 5%, while spewing noxious particulates and toxic gases into the atmosphere as a by-product.

Wind powered generators managed a pathetic 2% of the total demand.

France had to import the balance, to meet its internal energy needs, from its neighbours, Belgium, Germany, Italy and Britain.

When France goes to the polls in a couple of months time, the Socialist Party will be campaigning on a promise to close down France’s nuclear stations. Instead of planning to build new reactors for limitless, clean, cheap, nuclear generated power they favour windmills to replace the nuclear generating capacity.

It’s not hard to forecast what will happen if they put this misguided, crackpot, flowers-in-your-hair, open-toe sandal, long-haired hippie policy into effect.

Vote Socialist and freeze to death in your own home!

Energy efficient living. New building standards for France

Even if you reject the hysterical claims that burning fossil fuels for our energy needs will inevitably and imminently cause sudden catastrophic climate change, it makes a great deal of sense to consider the advantages of modifying your own behaviour. Now that energy costs have become the second largest item in most family budgets, the first and best reason to use a lot less energy is to save money that you could enjoy using in some other more pleasurable, but still economically useful way. By “economically useful”, I mean spending it on things that you will enjoy and that will help to keep the wheels of industry turning, which means almost any activity except tucking your savings away under the mattress, or burying gold bars in your garden.

If you drive a car or heat your home with oil or gas, you will be aware that the cost of  petroleum products only ever goes up. Nothing now seems to halt the rise in price of oil, so dependant have we become on it. Even global recession seems to have no effect on bringing the price significantly down. That’s because oil and gas production is in the hands of a few enormously rich individuals and organisations, and they can afford to simply turn off the tap when there’s any suggestion that an excess of supply over demand might lead to lower prices. You can’t really blame them for this. It makes perfect economic sense for the owner of a scarce and finite commodity to maintain a high price by limiting supply. After all, when the day comes that it’s all gone, they’re going to have to work for a living, or hope that the investments they’ve made with their oil fortunes will sustain them. In the meantime, by buying Ferraris, huge yachts, gold bath taps, and football clubs, and by building palaces and golf courses in the desert, they are at least helping to keep a lot of other people in employment.

How a Passive House works. (Passiv Haus Institute, Germany)

In France, the government, like others in Europe, is anxious to be seen to be making efforts to keep to their Kyoto Convention commitments, even if the cost to consumers and taxpayers is out of all proportion to any small and meaningless reduction in CO2 gas emissions. Starting from 2013, therefore, all new houses built here will be required to conform with the “Batiment Basse Consommation” (BBC) standard. This calls for buildings that are sufficiently well insulated to require no more than 50 kWh per square metre a year (kWh/(m2a) to heat.

However, if you are considering building a new home, you might be well-advised to think about going for the more stringent German “Passivhaus” (Passive House) standard, which calls for much lower heating energy needs – less than 15kWh/(m2a). The standard has been named “Passive House” because the passive heat inputs delivered externally by solar irradiation through the windows and provided internally by the heat emissions of appliances and occupants, suffice to keep the building at comfortable indoor temperatures throughout the heating period. In other words no heating bills at all. The Passivhaus standard is so energy efficient that houses built to it in Germany, Holland and Scandinavia are usually completed without any conventional heating system.

A Passive House by Hanse Haus, Germany

France intends to catch up with the Germans, though. From 2020 French law will require newly-built homes to comply with the French BEPOS standard – homes that deliver positive energy. In other words, houses that are so bristling with solar panels and wind generators, that they can generate more energy than they use.

Be warned! The technical equipment to meet the BEPOS standard is likely to be expensive to install and complicated and costly to maintain. So, if you are considering selling up at some time in the foreseeable future and building a new home, you should think about building to the Passive House standard, and doing it before 2020, when the Kyoto-inspred building legislation becomes energy positive – or positively barmy, depending on your point of view.

New rules for driving in France

A personal breathalyser from Amazon £2.82

A new law aimed at reducing road deaths and injuries takes effect in France this spring. It will require all drivers to carry a breathalyser kit in their car. Kits are reported to be available at under €5 and the penalty for not having one could be a fine of around €17.

The question is whether this measure will have the desired effect. Will it reduce drinking and driving, or will the universal ability to measure blood alcohol content by means of a personal breathalyser lead drivers to try keep drinking right up to the point where they are just a fraction below the legal limit?

Will it, in fact lead to more drink driving rather than less?

Grande Place, Arras, February 1919

The Grande Place, Arras in February 1919 from a panoramic photo in US Government Archives

Click here to see the whole panoramic view

This panorama was taken by Fred Schutz of Washington, DC, who was commissioned after World War I to photograph some of the war`s destruction and impact, especially in northern France.

Quality of Life Index ~ France No 1 again!

For the third year running France is the best place to live in Europe, according to the uSwitch Quality of Life Index.

Britain is the worst.

The uSwitch index calculates an overall quality of life score for ten European nations, based on 16 factors including net income, VAT and the cost of essential goods such as fuel, food and energy bills, as well as lifestyle issues like hours of sunshine, days holiday, working hours and life expectancy.

The UK was joined at the bottom of the index by Sweden and Ireland, while Spain took second place and the Netherlands came third.

Commenting on the findings, Ann Robinson, Director of Consumer Policy at uSwitch, said: “Last year at least our neighbours in Ireland were worse off, now we can’t even console ourselves with that.

“We are now officially at the bottom of the pile. We may still be enjoying the fourth highest household income in Europe, but the high cost of living means that we’re living to work.”

uSwitch Quality of Life infographic

This news comes as no surprise to Frogsiders. The UK gives us a headache as soon as we drive off the shuttle. We don’t start smiling again until we’re back on French soil. Nothing much against Spain, but it’s too hot, it smells, the bread is rubbish, there are too many tourists and most of the builders and estate agents are dodgy.

Attention Gite Owners! Free listing on new site

Gite owners who want a free listing on the new Holiday Let Exchange site will have to get a move on.  The offer is limited to the first 100 listings.  After that owners will have to pay a subscription to join.

The Holiday Let Exchange website

Frogsiders advice is to take advantage of all and any free offers for gite listing.  Even if you only get a single booking as a result, it will have been worth the small effort involved.  On the other hand, we say, don’t be taken in by gite advertising sites that offer “two years for the price of one”, BOGOF, or other such “bargains”.  Often these sites will turn out to be a very expensive way to advertise, and/or totally useless in bringing in new business.

If it’s going to cost you, research the site first, and calculate how much business you’ll need to get from it for the advert to pay for itself, not just to cover its cost.  Ask yourself if the ad is likely to bring in at least 5 to 10 times its annual cost in new business.  If the answer is no, then the ad is not worth the money.

Freebies, on the other hand, are never to be passed up.

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