Category Archives: Living in France

Zut alors! What’s that fish?

French fish shop

Want to know what "Dorade Grise" is?

I’ve always found it difficult to tell one fish from another on the fishmongers slab. I know some varieties because I’ve caught them personally, salmon, brown and rainbow trout, mackerel, pike, bream, and perch, plus a few I’ve bought fresh such as sole and plaice.  Otherwise, I’m an ignoramus when it comes to the game of “Name That Fish!”

And, of course, that makes it doubly difficult to buy fresh fish in France, because if you don’t know the name of the fish in English you’re certainly not going to know it in French.  So there they are, these nice looking freshly caught fish, beautifully arranged on the marble slabs in the fish market in Etaples, and I haven’t got a clue what they are.

What do you do if you have a recipe in English for a fish called wrasse, for instance, but you don’t know the French word, and you don’t know what it looks like either?

Fortunately I’ve discovered a really useful internet resource that lists the French name of every fish you can imagine, and, at a click, gives the name of the same fish in several other languages, including English and the official Latin name.

Thus I can now tell you that Alose Savoureuse or Alosa sapidissima as we pedants call it, is otherwise known in English as American shad, common shad, Connecticut river shad, shad alose or white shad.  In other words I think I can safely say it’s Shad.

Likewise, a lieu jaune is Pollachius pollachius, known in English as green pollack, lythe, or just pollack.

The source of this information is an Icelandic (of course) website.  Fortunately the nice Icelanders have translated their site into English, so go to the Icelandic Marine Research Institute site, click on “French”, and look down the alphabetical list to find the French name of your mystery fish.  Click on it to find its English name (or Latin, Danish, Russian, Spanish, etc.).

Simple – Oh!, except that you have to remember English in Icelandic is “Enska”

You learn something new everyday!

There’s more than just baguettes at the boulangerie

Chart showing some of the wide variety of types of French bread

You might need a chart when you visit your boulangerie!

When our favourite boulangerie burnt down a few months ago,
we had to try many other bakeries before we were satisfied with a loaf of the quality and flavour we wanted.  But it’s not just the quality of baking and the flavour of your local loaf that can be so different from one outlet to another in france, there are also a bewildering variety of different types of bread to choose from.

The ‘baguette’, a long thin crusty loaf, is an icon of French life. The standard 250gram baguette – it means rod or wand – is indeed the most popular type of bread in France, and when you go into your local boulangerie you’ll probably find it in a number of different forms.  Among the variations are:-

?  the ordinary baguette, with a crisp golden-brown crust
?  the “moulded baguette”(baguette moulée) – a baguette baked in an industrial bread-oven.  It usually has a thinner crust and a fine lattice pattern on the underside.
? the floured baguette baguette farinée – paler in colour as the crust is covered with flour before baking.

There are other variations, but these are the most common

Casting your eye over the shelves at the boulangerie, you’ll notice that plain white French bread comes in several other shapes and sizes.  There’s the gros pain (double the weight of a baguette), the couronne or pain percé (bread in the shape of a ring), the bâtard (the same weight as baguette but shorter and thicker) and the ficelle, a thin loaf of half the weight of a baguette.  Ficelles must be eaten very fresh, as they are so thin that the inside dries out rather fast.  French white bread contains no fat, which is why it doesn’t keep and you need to buy it fresh every day.
Apart from baguettes, France has a wonderful range of delicious breads to offer.  Here are some you might want to try:

? Pain de campagne (country bread) – white bread made with a mixture of farine de blé (wheat) and farine de seigle (rye). It has a thick crust which helps the bread to keep longer.  You can usually buy this in boule (round) or baguette style.
? Pain complet (wholemeal) – made from wholemeal farine de ble and farine de seigle
? Pain au son – contains bran (pain de son contains at least 70% bran)
? Pain de seigle – normally about 70% rye flour mixed with white flour
? Pain au seigle – contains at least 10% rye flour
? Pain noir – made from a mixture of buckwheat flour and rye flour
? Viennois – made from very finely ground flour with a little milk.
? Pain de mie – similar to a British white sliced loaf, available in supermarkets.

Baguettes, Boules and other types of French bread at your boulangerie

Displays of different types of bread in boulangeries delight the eye, but can often confuse non-French customers

Bread in France has always varied in taste from place to place, and quality from one shop to another, even sometimes from day to day, but in recent years a number of branded bakery chains have developed their own standard formulae so that their loaves taste the same wherever they are baked.  Banette and Ronde des Pains are two of these branded chains whose excellent breads, made locally using their own flours and strictly controlled traditional recipes, are really worth trying and can be thoroughly recommended for taste, variety and quality. You can often buy good, tasty bread from the bakery counter of French supermarkets, but generally speaking they use factory-made dough which has been deep-frozen before being baked on the premises.

The good news this month from our local boulangerie is that they have partially re-opened the fire-damaged premises and are selling their wonderful bread again. Refurbishment of the rest of the old shop should be completed soon so that they can show off all their delicious cakes, tarts and pastries, as well as the bread, in a fittingly high-class boulangerie setting.

Coming Soon: Two Excellent Summer Events

Here’s news of one not-to-be-missed summer event for anyone living or staying in the Pas De Calais region, and a reminder of another a few days later.

Strawberry Tea in a lovely garden - What a very good idea!

This weekend, Paul and Lalage Glaister have extended an invitation to all for a scrumptious Strawberry Tea (click link for full details) in their beautiful garden at Estréelles.

Visitors will be welcomed with scones, cakes, strawberries and tea, in the afternoons of Saturday and Sunday, 11 and 12 June (that’s this weekend!).

Even rain won’t stop them! The generous couple have arranged for the village hall to be used in the event of wet weather.

Guests’ kind donations will go to the Anglican Church in Boulogne.

And please do remember the Red Cross Coffee Morning event on Friday June 17, with prize tombola, bookstall, bring and buy stall and other attractions, to be held at Sue and Patrick Hay’s house at Conchil Le Temple.

Anglican Church in Boulogne

On Sunday May 1 at 10.30 we shall be having our first Eucharist at our new location.

Monastère du Carmel – 2, rue du Denacre – 62280 SAINT MARTIN BOULOGNE – Tél : 03 21 31 66 63 – Fax : 03 21 91 75 01 – courriel : carmelites.stmartin@wanadoo.fr

We shall be serving a celebratory glass of bubbly after the service.
Also note that exceptionally, for May only, we shall be having a second 1030 service on Sunday May 15 instead of the scheduled 530 service – we hope to see as many as possible.

Nuclear Power Stations: Do you want to live near one?

The press and broadcast media have been accused of whipping up a storm of scary stories about the dangers of nuclear power generation, following the news of devastation caused in Japan by the recent earthquake and tsunami.

It’s understandable that we might feel nervous about the dangers of nuclear power stations, especially those of us who live in France where around 90 % of our electricity comes from this source.

Radiation Dose Chart - see our link below

The good news seems to be the Japanese nuclear power stations (and, we hope, the French ones, too) have proved to be extremely robust and designed to stand up well to these unprecedented natural disasters. Among the thousands of known casualties none has died as a result of the problems at the Fukushima nuclear plant.

But radiation is an invisible poison. We have to rely on the honesty and openness of governments and nuclear regulating authorities for information on any dangers to which we might be exposed. How much radiation comes from a nuclear power station in normal use? How much can we take without coming to harm?

Although we probably wouldn’t believe the word of any politician, we’re fortunate that the nuclear industry is probably the most closely monitored of any on the planet, by both official and unofficial organisations, so it would be virtually impossible for the wool to be pulled over our eyes for long. No other form of power generation has ever been so closely and independently scrutinised for safety, security, emissions and threats to public health. It is a certainty that there has been untold death and sickness due to “dirty” coal, gas and oil burning power stations; even “clean” hydro-electric power has accidentally killed more people (when dams burst for instance) over the last 50 or so years than nuclear, yet comparatively few people call for the safety records of these industries to be closely examined.

We have found the chart that you’ll find by clicking here extremely useful and revealing. It provides approximate figures for all the radiation we can expect in our ordinary everyday lives, and shows where most of it is coming from. The chart also shows that a damaging or fatal dose of radiation is literally hundreds of thousands of times greater than any of us is ever likely to receive, barring extreme and extraordinary events.

A most unexpected piece of information is that ordinary coal-burning power stations actually expose us to more radiation than nuclear generating plants – and what with all the soot and pollutants they spew out as well, we should perhaps be feeling rather relieved to be living in a country where clean, and relatively safe, nuclear power generation is the rule rather than the exception.

And, it seems we might even be safer living near a nuclear power station than elsewhere.

Just one thing – eat bananas in moderation!

For an example of ill-informed and unbalanced reporting,  a piece deliberately aimed at stirring up public concern where none existed nor was necessary,  follow this link to today’s irresponsible Guardian article.

    Ask Leroy! Writing to French officials – should I use Babelfish?

    Once again our well-known expert on everything, M. Leroy Desfrites from Normandy, has been kind enough to dip into his overwhelming mailbox, to answer a question posed by a Frogsider reader.

    Dear Leroy,
    Usually when I write a letter in French, for instance to the Mairie, the Prefecture, or the Conseil General, I receive no reply, but occasionally I do receive a reply in which I am told they don’t understand what I have written about.Is this just the normal rudeness of French public employees, or is there some reason why they can not respond to my letters?When I write these letters, I know that they are in good French because I always use the babelfish website to do the translation from English.

    Yours sincerely
    Frustrated of Fauquembergues

    My Dear Frustrated of Fauquembergues,

    Of course the recipients of your letters do not want to reply in a polite fashion. After all, they represent the elite privileged class known as fonctionnaires, and they have ruled the French people for well over a hundred years (some say much longer). They find all forms of correspondence boring, especially when it involves communication with the common people.

    However, there may also be a problem with your use of Babelfish to translate your English letter into French. Here is an example of a Babelfish re-re-translation of a well-known English poem. Can you guess what the poem is?

    I only crossed whereas the cloud
    This fleet in you you are high valid and in the mount especific caught,
    When of a characteristic only I saw an amount,
    A server, Goldjonquils;
    It is closed in the lake inside within the trees,
    Swimmer and of the dance in the brise.Continuously whereas the paper of the first plant,
    The one that shines and ignites in the distance of milchigen,
    He had extended the game to them in the line
    Without fine throughout the edge of a drawer:
    A ten-thousandth that I saw in one sight
    And that I played its titles in the dance of you cut.The following waves had danced;
    But the waves of the blowing had exceeded the joy:
    Poèt could not nevertheless have been allegro
    With a so glad society:
    It considered locally surely — and that you consider locally surely — but little it has the thought,
    Of that the wealth that the suspension had obtained to me:

    For frequent if in my layer
    They are dreamed in the empty tendency or,
    Flasher in this centripetal eye,
    Of which the fortune of the isolation is;
    And then my interior with the materials of the blockade of the pleasure
    And dances with jonquils.

    Still a fine piece of poetry, of course, but perhaps not as lucid as the original.

    My tip is to give yourself the title of an English “Milord” when you write to French officials. There is nothing they like more than to feel they are in contact with a fellow member of the ruling class.

    For a complete expert answer to your questions, however technical and whatever the subject, just mail Leroy using our Contact Form.

    Good luck

      Ask Leroy! our expert answers all your questions about living in France!

      Frogsiders is extremely fortunate to have obtained the services of M. Leroy Desfrites from Normandy, the well-known and popular expert-on-everything, to answer all our readers’ questions and guide them in the proper French way of doing things.

      This week’s topic is Home Decoration.

      Dear Leroy,

      I was up a ladder the other day preparing to paint a high ceiling in my house when I noticed that it was covered with spiders’ webs that I had not seen from the ground. Rather than descend and add to my work by vacuum cleaning the ceiling to remove all the webs before painting, I just painted over the cobwebs. Of course, I said nothing about this to my wife.

      Should I have removed the webs first?

      Signed, Worried of Wambercourt

      Dear Worried of Wambercourt

      Here in France we know that incorporating spiders’ webs into the paint is a good way to stabilise the drying paint and enhance its long-term structural integrity.

      How did these famous cave paintings last so long?

      It is well-known that the painters of the famous pre-historic Lascaux cave paintings did not clear the spiders’ webs from the cave walls before painting. This helps to explain why these paintings, which we know were originally intended merely as temporary bachelor-pad decoration, have lasted so well.

      Obviously, there are thousands of similar caves all over France, where the prehistoric décor has completely disappeared.  Why is this?   It is simply because the cavewoman of these households swept away all the cobwebs on the cave walls before getting her man to decorate.

      Apparently, in the case of the occupant of the Lascaux caves, he either never got married or he never got round to redecorating!

      Since the beginning of human civilisation, we French men have always understood that a little knowledge of history can save such a lot of unnecessary work and effort.

      Bonne chance,

      Leroy

      For a complete expert answer to your questions, however technical and whatever the subject, just mail Leroy using our Contact Form.

      Ex-Pats Beware of Bogus House Buyers

      What value the internet? On reflection I find that those who either left it too late or just can’t be bothered to learn to use a computer, frequently criticise. Those of us who have been surfing for years, well we just can’t imagine life without it. The former group often try to strengthen their case by sighting paedophile groomers, bank account hackers and of course scammers and it’s those very scammers that have brought me to examine my own opinion.

      We were recently targeted by someone who purported to be interested in buying our house which we recently placed with three local estate agents, plus a couple of ads on small independent internet sites. Actually we’re not in a hurry to sell, it’s a big house and we figured that it would take several years to shift so we were quite surprised when almost immediately; we received a phone call from a man asking for more details and some photos. He said that he would text his email address and when it didn’t arrive we were not concerned and forgot the whole thing. After about a fortnight he rang again and this time the email address came through very quickly – of course we responded to his request.

      His story was that he lived and worked in Scotland (he spoke good French and English) and was interested in a house in our area. He was very busy so he would send his “expert” to look over the house – all feasible so far. However alarm bells began to ring when we were asked if we would accept part of the payment in Sterling, why we asked ourselves but didn’t really think too much about it as we have been very busy with other projects.

      After several phone calls from the potential buyer we were contacted by the so-called expert who told us he would be arriving at our local station on the Paris train and could we pick him up. My husband did so and I must say that we were both surprised not only because there were two of them but their appearance was, not to put too fine a point on it, Middle Eastern in cheap clothes.

      To cut a long story short they had a look round and seemed to us a bit too enthusiastic with the “buyer” ringing several times during the visit seeming impatient to do a deal. They were polite, pleasant and very complimentary even telling us that our house was worth more than we were asking. Now, having sold numerous properties in our time we of course thought this to be suspicious and started to think about scams. We wondered though how they could possibly dupe us as we thought it was simple, if they didn’t give us the money we wouldn’t give them the house. What could be their angle?

      The following day the “buyer” rang saying he was meeting the experts in Paris the day after and would contact us further to make “a rendezvous”. This he did but the meeting was to be at Fouquets in Paris – things were now becoming ridiculous.

      So we searched the internet and indeed we did find many such scams with a very similar chain of events. The one we were experiencing was potentially to be paid a part sum into our UK bank account and when it appeared on our on-line statement we would be asked to refund the buyer’s expenses (usually 10%) and then, voila, the original payment bounces.

      My husband rang the scammer to say that we would be happy to meet him but we insist that it be at our lawyer’s office. You can imagine the reaction; of course the whole deal was off.

      This scam would not work through an estate agent it is only doable through a private sale in this case via the internet. The process necessitates a transaction crossing two countries and currencies plus it is compounded by the use of internet banking.  Now all those technophobes are smiling smugly – but my point is that these scams are very soon “out there” on that very same internet warning us of dangerous pitfalls. Scammers used to be con-men and confidence tricksters the internet did not invent them.

      With all new things there can be drawbacks but in general, progress is good and I for one will not stop using the internet. I have to confess in fact that both my husband and I are completely addicted, tapping happily on our iPods each evening at the same time as watching television. Who said that men can’t multi-task?

      10 great things about Montreuil – (restaurants and history apart)

      by Lesley Delacourt

      (Article first published in Frogsiders Magazine – Summer 2009)

      If you know Pas de Calais well, you’ll probably have been to Montreuil sur Mer and know that it has a Michelin-starred restaurant and about 15 other places to eat. You’ll probably also know that it was founded in 987 AD and wears its history (which is amazing! don’t get me started) and other charms on its sleeve. But there is more besides the Citadel, the museums, the Saturday market, restaurants, cute little theatre/cinema and small choice of chi-chi shops.

      Behind the scenes there are (at least) 10 other great things about Montreuil, that may take a bit of digging around before you’ll come across them, but they are delightful when you do. In no particular order try:

      1.    Summer Sunday afternoons outdoors jazz and blues concerts as the sun sets at the Creperie in the Rue Clape en Bas. Last month pony tailed duo “Pere et Fils” between them played double bass, ukulele and guitar. “Fils” is 12 years old and is already an accomplished musician, especially impressive as he’s only played double bass for less than a year. Have a drink or a crepe while you listen to the music; a crepe with ratatouille and Maroilles cheese is a great snack or light meal.

      2.    Saturday Auctions. The furniture auction rooms are more or less opposite Le Patio hotel/restaurant (great food and a pretty courtyard for summer dining) on the main cobbled street that winds through Montreuil. You don’t have to attend the whole auction; check out the reserve price of what you want, leave your bid and go back later to see if you bid successfully for that pretty 18th century boat bed.

      3. Malins Plaisirs. Sometimes 10 days, sometimes 2 weeks depending on each year’s state subsidy, the festival of Malins Plaisirs (Wicked Pleasures) takes place in August. There are opera and theatre performances, concerts and talks, visits to surrounding historic villages, wine and food tastings, all of them very professionally performed by artistes who use Mailns Plaisirs as a glorious dress reherasal for winter in Paris theatres. Good humour, surprise and aplomb are the order of the day. In particular the Last Night is Continue reading “10 great things about Montreuil – (restaurants and history apart)” »

      Gite Owner? All Your Taxation Questions Answered!

      Letting a gite? What tax should you pay?

      If you own and let a French gite, or possibly several of them, you may have been dismayed and/or confused by recent changes to the way the French tax authorities view the income you derive from them.

      Many of us were very happy with the old micro BIC arrangements for rental income from holiday properties.  Unfortunately the generous limits and allowances have recently been tightened up, so you may find you’ll need to take some action in order to make sure you’re not paying more tax than you should.

      Frogsiders is extremely fortunate to have enlisted the help of Virginie Deflassieux of French tax specialists PKF (Guernsey) to guide us through the changes.

      You can find Virginie’s clear and thorough explanation of the current rules in our new French Tax Section, where we hope she’ll be contributing further important articles in future.

      You’ll find the French Tax Section by going to our new Features Index Page (click on “Features” at the top of this page, or you can click here to go straight to the article.

      HK Fat Cats looking to buy in France

      Pierre & Vacances properties at Fort Mahon

      There might be good news today, if you are thinking of selling a house in France – a new tax treaty with Hong Kong has made it more attractive for Hong Kong residents to buy-to-let in France.

      Technically it’s a double taxation treaty between Hong Kong and France and it was signed by John Tsang, Hong Kong’s financial secretary and Christine Lagarde, the French minister of economy, industry and employment, after nearly a decade of negotiations between the two governments. The news has been welcomed by French property agencies, as it makes the purchase of French real estate easier for expats based in Hong Kong.

      Nick Leach, director of Pierre & Vacances property investment arm said: “Hong Kong is one of our most important expat markets alongside Dubai and Singapore. We have plenty of interest from bankers and lawyers based out in Hong Kong, who have a considerable amount of disposable income, and are looking for attractive investment opportunities.

      The Fat Cats from HK like this kind of property!

      “France, in particular, has always attracted the expat investor, with Paris and the Alpine region proving particularly popular with Hong Kong investors. And now that another tax barrier has been removed, we are bracing ourselves for a big rise in interest from the expat investor community in Hong Kong.”

      John Busby, director of Athenamortgages.com, a French mortgage broker, said he was also expecting the treaty to increase interest in French property from expat investors based in Hong Kong. “We experienced a similar spike in interest from buyers and agents in the Channel Islands, when a tax treaty with France was agreed earlier this year,” he said.

      The treaty is expected come into effect in 2011, so, if you’re thinking of buying rather than selling, it might be a good idea to get in now, ahead of the Hong Kong fat cats.

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