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Archive for March, 2010

I don’t often say that I miss good old Blighty, I mean for goodness sake I went back and lived there for four years with French Hubby and hated almost every minute. In fact I was more desperate than he was to get back to France. We only returned 3 years ago so how can I have forgotten how much I wanted to get away from there? But over the last few days my Englishness has come out in full and I’ve been missing some things from back home :

1. Hot Cross Buns
I’ve actually learned to make these but when I see the ads on UK television for 4 hotcross buns for 49p at Tesco my homemade buns just don’t cut it.

2. Cadbury’s Creme Eggs
Really really miss these. In fact I’ve asked my brother to send some over to me!!! I am a bit worried that these will become extinct though now that Cadbury has been taken over and it’s not exactly as if I can learn to make them now is it?

Cadbury Creme Egg

Cadbury Creme Egg

3. Proper Bacon
I hate the think slimy stuff that the French call bacon and I long for a decent rasher of bacon in a good sandwich (not made out of stale pain de mie – have you ever noticed that all pain de mie in France is stale?). The last time I had a decent Bacon sarnie was in St Lucia at Christmas but I had to make do with tomato ketchup as they didn’t have any brown sauce (HP is best!!).

Looking at this list there’s not a lot that I really miss and quite a lot is seasonal for Easter. I could add many items that I often crave such as Branston Pickle, chicken and mushroom pie, Bakewell Tart, M&S ready meals, Indian takeaway, Herbies Pizza although these are only occasional cravings and are often quickly satisfied when I return to Blighty as opposed to the buns, creme eggs and bacon – these are all seriously missed and I have to take measures to satisfy my craving otherwise it becomes an obsession.

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Even though my family reckon I’m more Frenchie than British now, one thing that shows my true origins is my tendency to complain and more so my tendency to moan about the weather!

How come after months and months of freezing cold, miserable weather, spring finally bursts upon us almost over night and yet after a week of glorious sunshine I consult the weather forecast for this weekend and wham! It’s going to rain! Why is it always like this? Sunny before and sunny after the weekend, but the weekend itself Mr Raincloud is coming to visit! Go away, stay away, I don’t want to see you!

Weather Forecast for Lyon this weekend

Weather Forecast for Lyon this weekend

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Sometimes I think that I’m just not meant to cook! I mean, for months my induction hob had slowly been passing away and at the end I only had one measly ring left working on it, so cooking anything that required two pans (or more!) instantly became a logistical nightmare.

At the beginning of February I had hoped that all that would change when Hubby and I agreed to buy a new one. We had hoped to get the old one repaired, but when we discovered how excessively expensive it was to get it repaired and that the reparations were only guaranteed 3 months (yes, just three months for brand new pieces – that just goes to show how much confidence the manufacturer has in them!) we decided it was just better to buy new!

So after weeks of waiting last Friday, my brand new shiny black induction hob was delivered. Only, it wasn’t any good. After all are careful measuring we had managed to order the wrong size. Disaster! Yet more juggling with the pans in the kitchen!

Not wishing to have to wait another month for a new one to arrive, we made the decision to order at trustworthy Darty. We could get their guarantee extension and be delivered on Monday. Youpee!! Hubby managed to negotiate the price down to a reasonable level and we ordered knowing that we were putting our money with a trustworthy company.

So, Monday came and the guys from Darty delivered and installed the new hob. Fantastic until I saw how clumsy they were. Imagine two great big hulks that look like they’re stood on a ball (a bit like a bowling alley pin) rather than standing on two legs. They managed to break a Champagne glass within the first five minutes, and oh, yes, they also managed to break my Dietrich fitted microwave. They literally pulled the door off thinking that they could remove it from its unit by pulling the door really really hard!

Darty being Darty, they immediately arranged for someone to come round and repair the microwave. They came yesterday but quickly admitted defeat when they saw the level of damage their colleagues had caused. They needed to order a new door – which takes a minimum of a week to arrive! So, now I can’t use my microwave and all the extra portions I’d cooked on Sunday for Tuesday evening have had to go to waste as I can’t heat them up!

Given that I didn’t have anything else we could eat as everything needed to be re-heated thank goodness for Plats du Monde, a restaurant delivery service! We were able to order good Mexican food from them yesterday and be delivered within the evening without it costing a fortune and still being able to eat reasonably healthy at the same time (unlike most takeaway food). The food comes from the actual restaurant and is from their restaurant menu so you’re getting the same as if you actually went there which is good. It was really great and very very tasty even if one of the Burritos was a bit too hot for me! Next time we’re going to try Indian!

Mexican Restaurant Lyon - El Sombrero

Mexican Restaurant Lyon - El Sombrero

So, the microwave is out of action for the foreseeable future and I’ve just wasted a load of food which I’d cooked on Sunday so my kitchen conundrums are still not over!

Being British I think I’m going to write a letter of complaint and see if I can get some cash out of Darty – I mean, because of them I’ve been deeply inconvenienced and had to order food in from a restaurant!

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France – for sale!

France For Sale

France For Sale

Cherie?????? J’ai trouvé quelque choses!!! Hubby was looking on the net for properties and found an excellent solution for me and my voting grievances…. I SHOULD BUY FRANCE! Ha ha ha! Somehow I don’t think I would qualify for a big enough mortgage!

Seriously though, he was on a website looking at property ads when he came across one “pays à vendre ‘La France’”. Obviously a discontent Frenchmen who decided that his country had too much deficit and needed to be sold to resolve problems! French readers can read the advert in full here.

He makes a few rants and raves, comparing the minister of National Identity and Immigration to the Vichy regime of the 1940′s, the privatisation of La Poste, the fact that numerous unemployed are coming to the end of their benefit rights and yet CAC40 companies (listed on the French stock exchange) are making healthy profits.

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Je ne veux pas travailler… I have been singing this song all week for reasons unknown to myself other than the fact that my subconscious mind has been telling me I don’t want to work (obviously !).

But it seems I was not the only one. France has been gripped by strike fever this week!

The French certainly do know how to cause chaos. Although, I have to admit, I have hidden in my house all week and not noticed any of the goings on, apparently this week has been major strike week. How can I possibly live in France and not notice something as major as this?

Okay, so apparently, this week the strikes have been:

Bus and tram drivers
As I work from home I’m not directly affected by this (thankfully) but when they’re on strike it generally means maximum disruption and has dreadful knock on effects. I don’t know why they’re striking this time, they do strike often so maybe someone can enlighten me?

GP’s
Striked on Thursday in order to protest about lack of resources and growing number of patients (okay so I knew about this one because my GP told me! He was all excited about having a day off!). There are loads of GP’s in France and they offer the best medical care I know of, in anycase far far better than the UK. Maybe they should spend some time there?

Secondary school teachers
On strike today. I don’t know why they’re striking either…

Dustbin collectors – on strike from today until who knows when….
The bin men are complaining that their jobs are dirty (no way! I would never have guessed that if I was applying for a job to a bin man!) and that they are not satisfied with the 1% pay rise they received in January. They also want to lower the pension age.
In Lyon our bins are collected every day from outside of our property. Compared to the UK where many areas only have collections twice a month this is a luxury so they’ll have to strike a long time before I’ll miss them. As for the UK, that’s really gross and politicians and councils should be ashamed.

Magistrates & Lawyers
I couldn’t care less about Magistrates and Lawyers. All they ever do is take money (my money) and there is never much result! As my husband says (more eloquently in French) “the French legal system is a circus, animated by clowns and jugglers!”.

Prison Wardens
mmmm, a bit worrying seems as people frequently escape from prisons in France (or maybe its just me that thinks this?).

There’s also another National Strike planned for 23rd March the aim of the game being to cause maximum disruption to everyone in France and bring the country to a standstill. Last time there was a National Strike no-one I know bothered going to work except for yours truly as I work from home!

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Not only did it rain, it poured! My streak of bad luck continued last Friday as we left Lyon with bright blue skies to arrive in Lisbon in absolute pouring rain. It was absolutely tipping it down and anything remotely tourist related was impossible without getting drenched.

We found a small café on the promenade at Estoril and stayed there for ages, taking our time to eat and drink in the hope that the rain would go away. What a fantastic view we had!

View from our café in Estoril

View from our café in Estoril

Thankfully it brightened up on Saturday and we were able to visit Lisbon properly although we had just one day. I was able to take lots of photos although not with my own camera as my battery was dead! Arggh!

The weather is really strange at the moment as when we arrived back in Lyon on Sunday it was snowing! Again! We are in March! It never snows in Lyon, not normally anyway. It also snowed in the South of France and there were horrendous queues on the motorway. My cousin in law took 11 hours to drive from Lyon to Montpellier… so I was lucky to be in Lisbon in the rain after all!

If you read French just take a look at this article . I just love the photo of the snowy road!

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Ahhh… it is bright and sunny outside. It is also freezing cold but one should not be fooled by this last minute cold snap. Spring is around the corner and it will be here in no time at all now!

In Lisbon this weekend (more to follow), I peeled off the layers for the first time in months and was shocked to see my brioche belly sticking out from under my t-shirt! I then proceeded to walk round for the next few hours whilst sucking my tummy in but it was so much like hard work! I have to get this in check now before I go past the point of no return! Brioche belly and muffin top are two very appropriate words to describe my excess kilos!

I have always struggled with my weight since moving to France but the worst of my struggles have been since being with my now husband (10 years). The only thing that has changed is my weight, it has gone up – not down!

I now only have one pair of fat trousers that I can fit in, my other fat trousers have all become too small and my first summer holiday is booked so I have just 10 weeks to lose 10 kilos… (okay, so maybe 10 kilos is too much to lose in 10 weeks especially as I’ve not been feeling well, so 5 kilos will be fine but 10 kilos sounds so much better!).

My 10 commandments for the next 10 weeks:

1. I will not be enticed into the pastry shops:
The lure of the beautifully decorated patisserie or boulangerie shops on what seems like every street corner cannot be ignored. Each time I walk past one it is as if I’m being called in by the food. Perfectly formed, delightful delicacies in the way of cakes or the beautiful smell of freshly baked bread, playing with my sense buds, trying to tempt me in to taste them.

2. I will give up wine:
I am in love with wine, not just French but wine generally although French wine offers so much variety I absolutely love discovering le perle rare and deciding what bottles to age and what to drink now. Not to mention wine food pairing and how delightfully satisfying it can be to match a wine to each course of your meal.

3. I will donate the next box of chocolates I receive to a charitable cause:
I’m often treated to the most exquisite teeny tiny works of art which come in chocolate form. Next time I receive a box, I will kindly donate it to one of my thin friends rather than keeping it for myself. Not only will I not eat chocolate but I will also commit a charitable act. I will also stop buying Toblerone party bags.

4. I will stop socialising:
Every social event I throw or attend always starts of with an Aperitif and copious amounts of Champagne or Crémant. How I can avoid these I do not know, other than to stop socializing, after all, I can’t possibly hold a dinner party and not give an Apertif to my guests and I have no will power to resist!

5. I will use a smaller plate:
but then again all the lovely things in France are always served up in such small portions so will a smaller plate really make a difference? Nouveau Cuisine started in France and a lot of French food is so intricate and presented in the most beautiful way it only needs to be served in small portions. Maybe I’m eating UK sized portions whilst French women are eating much smaller portions?

6. I will not use butter:
Butter is one of the secrets to French cuisine so I’m told. I therefore started using it in abundance to make by English cuisine more French and more appealing to my French friends. My taste buds developed a liking for it also unfortunately. As did my brioche belly. I will therefore ditch the butter.

7. I will keep my fridge topped up with fresh fruit and veg:
I have no excuse, I have a local food market 3 times a week just a 10 minute walk away. I will just have to avoid the pastry shops, the wine growers, the chocolate shop and other temptations on my way there! I therefore think I should put a peg on my nose or a bag over my head to avoid being tempted!

8. I will exercise:
In one of the many parks that Lyon has to offer. I could take a run in the wonderful Parc de la Tete d’Or or go on a bike ride at Miribel Jonage or along the riverside quays.

9. I will stop buying clothes until the ones I already own fit:
I don’t know if this will work but if I maybe remove everything that doesn’t fit from my wardrobe I’ll be mightily disappointed and it may just shock me into doing something.

10. I will stop raiding the foreign aisle of my local supermarket:
Everytime they stock something like proper cookies, peanut butter, Dairy Milk Chocolate etc I feel absolutely obliged to buy as much as possible in terms of quantity so that the shop is encouraged to continue stocking it. When I first moved to France it was so hard to get hold of food from back home such as Branston Pickle, Brown Sauce etc that whenever I see it now I feel obliged to buy. But as I don’t like waste I also feel obliged to eat!

After all, I am living in France and so many French women are thin and slender that it must be possible if I’m good and try and stick to the rules? So, today marks day 1 of my mission… Just 10 weeks to go!

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I’ve had a bit of a shitty week and hopefully its all due to come to an end tomorrow as I’m off to Lisbon to see my parents. Its been a while!

I should have known on Sunday evening that I was going to be in for a cracker of a week, as Hubby & I were invited round to my neighbours for dinner. All started well, until I learned that we were going to be eating my two most feared foods:

1) Magret de canard (duck): I actually like duck but others always cook it bloody and I then have to negotiate not eating it or slipping it to my hubby for him to eat.
2) Fondue! I have not eaten this since my Fondue incident at the beginning of February and everyday I live with a reminder in terms of a big red scar on my hand…

I should have taken these signs as a bad omen and cancelled all the rest of my plans for the week…

Roll on Tuesday and I had an important work meeting. By Tuesday night I was exhausted and I nearly passed out on the motorway whilst on the way to the airport. Pretty scary stuff I can tell you as I couldn’t breath and began violently shaking. I just about managed to pull over onto the hard shoulder and then my poor passenger had to drive my right hand car to the airport with me just about managing to give directions! He should have read my driving tips!

At the medical centre in the airport I met the nicest Nurse and Doctor I’ve ever met, and even though my blood pressure was in free fall they were really lovely and never once made me repeat myself. When I felt better I realised that they probably hadn’t been able to understand a word of what I’d been telling them about my symptoms (try speaking French when you’re hyperventilating!) and yet they were professional and didn’t sneer like most people do.

They even managed to save me 160 Euros on the short-term car parking as apparently I’d got my colleague to park it in there at some silly price like 2 Euros a minute! Thankfully the nice Nurse sorted it out and she saved me a lot otherwise that would have been the cherry on the cake.

Then on Wednesday, hubby made me an appointment with my new doctor (who is lovely, speaks English even though we always speak in French, and used to work in Japan). Worryingly he didn’t even have to give my name for the appointment as apparently I’ve been there so much in the last month that I will soon qualify for a Frequent Visitor loyalty card (LOL). I patiently waited for the appointment time to come and battled my way through the maze of intricately guarded Interphone and front door systems, only for me to get there at said appointment time to find a note on the door to say that they had to cancel and had tried calling me but couldn’t get through. Oh yes, we had broken the telephone, I’d forgotten about that!

So now we’re Thursday and I’m just getting through the day, slowly but surely… It’ll be Friday soon and I’ll be on my way to Lisbon and hopefully getting some sun… Or, knowing my luck it will pee down all weekend!!!

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24 hours without us - Day without immigrants

24 hours without us - Day without immigrants

Today is a special day for me. It is a day where all immigrants in France are supposed to protest and not make any purchases in order to show the French what a day without immigrants would be like.

Quite a dangerous idea but the principal is that a lot of immigrants do menial jobs and account for quite a chunk of the working population.

As a Brit I don’t experience much open racism (thankfully) but I do feel the scorn towards foreigners and I can only imagine what it must be like for some foreigners living here.

I will be joining the protests at lunch time for two hours for one reason only: I want to vote! I pay my taxes here and therefore my voice should count. As the Spanish immigrants said in the 2006 protests in the US – NO TAXATION WITHOUT REPRESENTATION!

Find out more here

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