Friday, March 27, 2009

Never mind the Buzzcocks....

I went with a friend to see the 70's punk band "The Buzzcocks" who were playing in Angouleme last night.

It was an eclectic mix. Mainly young French kids with a sprinkling of ageing Brits trying (and succeeding) to rekindle their youth.

The band were full of energy and played almost a 2 hour set without a break, despite the fact that my friend had seen the two remaining original members play in Bristol in 1976....which puts them as early fifties at least.

The vibrancy and enthusiasm were a joy to behold and they were working the crowd effortlessly because of it. The trip down journey lane lead me back to one of my favourite quotations:

"If you can give your son or daughter only one gift, let it be enthusiasm"

Just don't forget that as you grow older ageing muscles take a while to lose their stiffness the next day....

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Houses in France - popular around the World

A short conversation yesterday brought home to me how popular France is around the World (and yes I know that sometimes the people, unjustifiably, get a bad press but I'm talking about the country).

Those of you who know me will be aware that last year I franchised my business to launch a network of property finders across the country

Well, my partner called me to say that so far this year we've been fielding enquiries from the UK (of course) but also from Hawaii, Norway, Portugal, the USA, Dubai, Germany and New Zealand.

Who knows the reason - maybe in times of a true global recession people think that France is one of the last safe havens. Or maybe it's just the wine.

Anyway, long may it continue.....I don't care if I earn money in pounds, euros, dollars or yen and seeing some, albeit small, signs of recovery in the market are most welcome.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Fancy a day out?

We made a terrific new discovery at the end of Feb (incredible that we've been here five years and still find new treats).

We put our bikes on the back of the car and went to St Palais sur Mer, just North of Royan. We parked in the town centre and followed one of the cycle trails along the coast and then inland through the pine forest to the zoo at La Palmyre.

The trail was glorious with plenty of undulations when going through the dunes. There and back took about 2 hours with the two girls loving every minute. Afterwards we took a picnic onto the superb beach and followed it up with ice creams at one of the sea front cafés.

It's a picturesque town and I'm not quite sure why we've never discovered it before.

I really do think we have the best of both Worlds here in the Charente valley. Undulating countryside with pretty and lively towns yet comfortable striking distance of the coast. We struck lucky when we landed up here!

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Sadly it wasn't me!

Local resident wins 50 million euros

The lucky winner came up with the numbers 13, 17, 19, 25, 35, to share the €100m lottery price with an Austrian.

Someone somewhere in the Charente doesn’t have to worry about this or any other financial crisis again. A resident of the department last week won the Euro Millions lottery played in nine European countries. And although the local inhabitant had to share the €100m prize with an Austrian, that still leaves them a healthy €50million to spend as they want.

So far little or no information has come out about the winner, though there have been plenty of rumours. The lucky man or woman was first said to come from Confolens, then it was Montbron, followed by Aubeterre. The latest rumour is that the winner lives in Genac. In any case the winner - who has now come forward to collect their prize - has the right to remain anonymous, and will be protected in this by organisers Française des jeux (FDJ).
Now wouldn't it be nice if some/all of this was donated to a needy cause (see below)....

Comic Relief

I never fail to be moved or humbled by the images from Africa.

One of the most fulfilling things we do as a family is sponsor a child in Kenya through

I'd urge all readers to do something similar - it doesn't need to break the bank and the letters we receive from "our" child (his name is Mutie) are always a source of joy. They're also a great way of letting our two young girls know how lucky they are and hopefully give them a sense of what real deprivation would be (and I'm not talking about not being able to watch TV/use the computer).

Thursday, March 12, 2009

French property crash.....baloney

Just read this in The Times

In the section on France one of the agents says that prices have fallen by up to 25% in many areas and quotes a house in the Dordogne that has come down in price from €630,000 to €456,000.

Now, I've never seen the house in question but I'd put my shirt on the fact that actually it was well over valued in the beginning (by the owner perhaps?) .

It's a sad fact that many of the Brits looking to sell up and go home paid over the odds in the first place. This means that they put their houses back on the market at over the market rate and are astonished when they have to "slash the price".....leading to articles like this that just feed the flames.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

La Ribaudiere keeps its Michelin star

Good news for all those who love the Charente and it's food.

If you haven't been to La Ribaudiere then I'd heartily recommend'll find that the village it is in (Bourg Charente close to Jarnac) is pretty special too.

Bon appetit....

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Jarnac property - excellent value for money

If you’re looking for a combination of sunshine, picturesque riverside villages, reasonable property prices and a slower pace of life then you should consider the Charente.

“The most beautiful stream in my kingdom” is how Francois 1’er described the river Charente and many experts agree with him.

Yet property still offers excellent value for money. Set out below are some of the latest figures published by the “Notaires de France”

They have calculated that the average house price, across France is €195,400. The average house price in Charente is just €128,900 (although this rises to €166,200 if you include all four departments of Poitou Charentes).

Now I think that’s an amazing statistic when you look at what the Charente has to offer. The region is one third cheaper than the average yet:

1. It’s the second sunniest region of France with around 2,400 hours of sunshine every year.

2. It boasts terrific communication links including direct flights to the UK, proximity to the motorway network and TGV trains to Paris, Lille and the UK.

3. The river Charente is universally ageed to be one of the most beautiful in France and borders some stunning market towns (like Jarnac, home of Courvoisier).

4. The countryside is beautiful with rolling hills covered in vines & sunflowers.

5. The World famous town of Cognac is lively throughout the year with an abundance of festivals, bars, restaurants and leisure activities.

6. There is a variety of property available from townhouses to Maison de Maitres with walled gardens and towering views over the vines.

Last year I helped clients buy this beautiful, 18th century old school house. It was a private sale which went smoothly thanks to the local Mayoress who was keen to see it restored to it’s former position as the signature house in the village. The seven bed Maison de Maitre is nearing completion and my clients still have to pinch themselves that they paid only €280,000 for it.

I don't want to merge with Aquitaine

Don't get me wrong. I love Bordeaux and when I go to watch the Girondins I wear my doughty "33" jumper with pride.

But this story about the possibility of Charente and Charente Maritime being swallowed up by Aquitaine gets my goat.

I've only been here five years but our friends call us "Charentanglais". And if I don't want to lose my identity having just laid down some roots what of my neighbours Yves & Jacqueline who were born and bred in this village. I struggle to understand them as they speak a mixture of Charentais patois and olde worlde French - they laugh at the idea of losing their department.

Friday, March 06, 2009

Don't curse the darkness - light a candle

"Crise Financiere", "Toxic debt", "Credit crunch" - all phrases that weren't in my vocabulary a year ago.

Now it sems that every news report leads off with a story about the recession and who is to blame. Surely it's now time to learn our lesson and act upon it.

I don't see how QE (printing more money) will help change our "spend, spend, spend" culture in any way except for the worse.

Similarly bailing out all the over stretched buy-to-let brigade by reducing interest rates to zero only punishes savers who have been prudent with their money.

Politicians and journalists talk about changing our credit card culture and then try to spend their way out of the crisis burdening the next generation with unsustainable debt levels.

The only reason that there isn't a huge furore about it is greed. With mortgage payments coming down and high street prices so low those who remain in employment can turn a blind eye and make hay while the sun is shining.

Let's stop talking about the need to discourage spending more than we earn and cursing the recession. Let's actually encourage people to tighten their belts, say no to that new car/plasma/i pod and live within their means. Sure the short term effect will be shocking but in the medium and long term our children will be grateful.