Archive for April, 2012

Beaujolais is more than just a wine. It is a beautiful area full of architectural delights, rolling hills and vineyards and is within easy driving distance of Lyon.

Image from Wikipedia

Often mocked for its inferior quality wine, the Beaujolais is a beautiful region and does actually have some perfectly nice drinking wines.

Did you know that white Beaujolais wines can sometimes qualify for the renowned Burgundy appellation? Some of the white wines are that good that people will happily drink them believing them to be Burgundy when in fact they are just good old Beaujolais!

Aside from the wine, what I love most about the Beaujolais is the community spirit and the scenery.

Old houses are often built from a remarkable golden stone and when the sun catches the stone it actually looks as if they are made from gold. Property is quite expensive there due to its proximity to Lyon which is a shame as it means that it is an area that many tourists or foreign property hunters ignore.

Some of Mr Piglet’s family have lived in the Beaujolais for years and Mr Piglet even lived there himself for a while.

My first initiation with Beaujolais life was whilst celebrating Beaujolais Nouveau on the third Thursday of November. We had been invited by Mr Piglet’s uncle who is a part time winemaker for the unveiling of his Beaujolais Nouveau. Mr Piglet didn’t give me any forewarning that the wine tasting would turn into an all night party!

The Beaujolais Nouveau has arrived!

After tasting his wine, we were carted off to the neighbours to taste their wine and so it went on. On foot we trekked from house to house and Mr Piglet was running wild buying bottles and bottles of all different wines wherever we went promising to stop by the next day to collect. I realized that Mr Piglet who was supposed to be driving was definitely over the limit so begged his Aunt to let us stay the night.

Worse for wear...

What I liked most about it was that it wasn’t youngsters running amok whilst drunk like you would expect in the UK maybe. The atmosphere was jovial and youngsters, families and the old of age were all mixing together, socializing and enjoying some good old plonk, saucisson soaked in wine and various other specialties.

Party in the cellar

All in all the Beaujolais has a lot to offer and is definitely worth checking out. Maybe I’ll chose to share some of my other stories about time spent there soon…

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This is France as I see it… It’s not meant to be an official guide and it’s only my opinion on some of the things that make France “France” for me.

A is for Assurance Maladie

Assurance Maladie literally means illness insurance and is essential here.

France has an excellent healthcare cover so long as you are employed, retired, on benefits or contribute as a self employed person. I’m sure there are some exceptions to that like for housewives etc but knowing France maybe they’re not covered?

As an employee or self employed person you contribute heavily into the black hole which is the “secu”. Why a black hole? Well, the healthcare system has tremendous debt and on top of your contributions anyone earning income from assets also pays a further tax to help remedy the black hole. Eversince I have lived in France the black hole has existed and somehow it just keeps getting bigger.

Maybe one of the reasons is the huge number of pills the French pop for the slightest ailment. Go to the Doctors with a common cold and you’ll come out with a prescription a page long for various medicines (probably including parecetmol, saline water etc). Most of these remedies will be paid for by the state medical cover, the majority will be reimbursed to you at 70%. Cost for a cold? 23 Euros for a Doctors appointment plus at least 15 Euros in medication!

I’m digressing. Despite the unfortunate circumstances that occurred around the birth of Baby Piglet, I do appreciate the French healthcare system. You have access to top Doctors as soon as you can convince the secretary to give you an appointment and emergency care is excellent (depending on where you go obviously).

When I had uveitis at the end of 2011, the total bill for my medical care came in at over 6000 Euros. This didn’t include the taxi I took every day to and from the hospital (100 Euros each way) or the laser eye surgery I had afterwards (not sure how much that cost). Thankfully because my illness is recognised by the state as being a long term affection I didn’t have to pay a penny. Not even for the taxi.

Suddenly all those heavy contributions seem well worth it. I cannot think of a better country in which to be ill, so long as you have cover of course. I am grateful for the French medical system and in awe that it’s still running as it is despite the incredible waste of funds.

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Right now my wardrobes are A LOT emptier! I can finally see the wood from the trees and find something fairly quickly that fits when I open up the doors.

Bizarrely Ebay didn’t work out too well, I sold a fair bit of stuff but it was almost like my fellow ebayers thought they were buying from a shop. Numerous were the emails I received asking the measurements of this top and that dress, what the washing instructions were etc etc. I mean for goodness sake, a top at 1 Euro surely you can afford to take a chance especially as it’s from a standard shop?

My wardrobe challenge did work out nicely though as I a few local girls were very interested in my stuff and took a load off of me as did a family member. I was pretty jealous as I saw her trying on stuff and looking good in it, I felt a pinch of my heart recalling that yes, I was actually that slim once upon a time (actually not so long ago).

If you remember I embarked on my wardrobe challenge in a bid to motivate myself to lose weight and go shopping for new clothes.

Progress on the weight loss front has been slow and steady, I have gone down three notches on my belts and am finally able to wear some normal clothes rather than just maternity stuff. Yes, nearly a year after giving birth!

My current aim is to be a dress size smaller before Baby Piglet’s first birthday. Lots of people ask me what diet I am following and whilst I have been tempted on several occasions to do Weight Watchers or other diets, I prefer to re-educate myself, eating sensibly and smaller portions that way I don’t feel deprived and can still indulge occasionally. After all, what’s the point of being a foodie if you can’t eat it?

Do you have any weight loss tips to share?

Can you believe this was me just five years ago?

Wondering if I'll be this slim again?

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One of the most annoying things I find about driving in France is the fact that you don’t actually need to have a driving license to be on the road. “What?!” I hear you say. Well, if you want to drive a normal car and actually get anywhere in a normal time then yes, you need a license, but if somehow you’ve not managed to pass your test or have had your license taken away from you then you can drive one of these:

If you see a car like this be sure to give it a wide berth

Or if that one is a bit to basic how about one of these?

If the first one is too basic how about a nice little convertible?

That’s right, you can still have a car, albeit one that allows you to drive without a license. If you’ve had your license taken away from you say for drink driving, well you can still legally be on the road, drunk and ready to hit a pedestrian, a tree or another car!

This bewilders me. Surely there is a valid reason as to why these people do not have a license?

When I was living in Lyon I had a couple of close calls with these fake cars as I call them. One tried to plough me down on a pedestrian crossing and another carved me up.

Now that I’m living in the countryside it is frequent that I get stuck behind one or have to swerve to miss one. They dawdle at no more than 60 kmh (I think) which is still plenty fast enough to cause damage. Their owners rarely seem to care about other drivers. Indicators? What are they for? Right hand side of the road? No, they can frequently be seen around here wobbling all over the road.

Of course, they are a good method of transport offering independence to those that don’t (or no longer have) a license but to the rest of us they are menace. If they hit a child the consequences could still be fatal.

What to you think? Danger or transport solution?

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