Surprising Facts About Skiing

It’s been a while since I blogged, as my rural idyll was shattered when my life took another unexpected turn last year – I moved to a ski resort in the Alps, launched a resort magazine and basically did my first ski season! It’s been quite a change of pace and my experience of French life is radically different up in the mountains. Instead of digging in the garden flower beds, I now dig my way out of the house through snow drifts, and due to all the fondue and raclette my cheese intake has exploded. Typically a “gap yah” student’s game, doing your first ski season at the age of 34 – and with no prior experience of skiing, glacial temperatures or apres bars – is an eye opener to say the least. In case you’re thinking of doing something similarly bonkers, I’ll share with you some of the things I learned…

Continue reading “Surprising Facts About Skiing”

Drinking in France: Showing Them How To Do It

In rural France you don’t get bars or pubs as we know them. In England we get home from work at 6ish, get the tea straight on and get down the pub for about 7.30. By 10 we’re a bit tipsy – if you make it to 12 things have probably got out of hand. Possibly because they all have a 2-hour lunch break and they’ve got work to catch up on, or possibly because they’re enjoying the weather or napping, in rural France no-one emerges from their homes until at least 9ish, when they usually go to a restaurant for a long late dinner with a few drinks. The continental way, you start drinking later and it’s with food so you don’t get drunk. But where’s the fun in that? Continue reading “Drinking in France: Showing Them How To Do It”

Eating in France: Jaffa Cake Revolution

When my boyfriend first asked me to fill any gaps in my hand luggage with packs of bacon and cheddar cheese, I thought he was joking – and a bit odd. But he’s right that the bacon is not the same in France, it’s streaky strips or fatty lardons. I’ve also found it hard to find a decent fat juicy sausage – many of them are thin long things that pinder up under the grill and don’t have much taste. There’s a heck of a lot of cheese and it’s served with practically every meal – not just after Christmas dinner when it’s opened and hardly touched as in England – but you won’t easily find a strong mature cheddar taste equivalent. I know these are the types of things you can hanker after when you’ve lived away for a while, but when I told him I had no room left in my suitcase and he exclaimed “Well strap it to your thighs then!” I thought he’d gone a bit far. Continue reading “Eating in France: Jaffa Cake Revolution”

French Postcards & Sinister Sheep Ceremonies

Now I’m no marketing guru, but what impression some of the French postcard makers are trying to give to tourists I can’t work out. We live in a beautiful village – it actually has the official title “L’un des plus beaux villages du France / One of the most beautiful villages in France”.  It has a medieval square with awesome ancient archways, gorgeous flowers everywhere and a stunning church.

Here’s a picture I took, to give you an idea: Continue reading “French Postcards & Sinister Sheep Ceremonies”

The Lunchtime Catch 22

If you’re looking for lunch out, lunchtime is not the best time to do it. Because the shops that sell lunch close for lunch. Yes you heard right. The spa, the boulangerie, the bakery, the places that sell your quiche and pie and a bit of cake – all the things you want most at lunchtime out of all the other times of day – are closed so the staff can have their own lunches. Because it’s lunchtime. This absolute rigid refusal to change centuries of tradition and give in to the demands of the market, whatever state your business might be in, is another characteristic of the French. Continue reading “The Lunchtime Catch 22”

Drinking in France: Sadly Lacking Jaegerbombs

The small village we live in is dead during winter. There were a couple of restaurants open on certain days, and no bars. In France if your business is dependent on tourism, like a restaurant or bar, the government gives you a subsidy of two-thirds of your summer income during the winter to keep you going – so most of them close of course.

So when the weather started picking up in April and some establishments showed signs of preparing to open I was excited. Continue reading “Drinking in France: Sadly Lacking Jaegerbombs”

The Drink Driving Problem In France

If the French government is listening let me put forward this rather important suggestion – you need to have a subsidised taxi service serving all your rural villages in order to stop people drink driving. Villages are small and spread out, lots of homes are on large plots of land in between and the only way people can get over to the next town for a night out or to visit friends is to drink and drive. Public transport doesn’t exist and there are no taxis. The country is so vast, there are so few cars on the roads and the back routes are so numerous that they can’t possibly be policed, and aren’t. Continue reading “The Drink Driving Problem In France”

France Doesn’t Do Fast Food

They’ve not got the hang of fast food yet in France. We went on a long drive to the Alps in January, and stopping at a service station I was shocked at what I found. There were jars with what looked like pickled organs or medical experiments gone wrong in them. And the sandwiches were so sloppy you couldn’t even pick them out of the wrappers without them disintegrating. “Just stop at a restaurant, take a couple of hours and a few carafes and don’t be in such a hurry” you can hear French culture moaning on the breeze. Apparently last year was the first time fast food sales took more of the lunch market than traditional brasseries but they’ve really still got some way to go. With McDonald’s however they do have the right idea. Heineken! On the drive-thru drinks menu. Brilliant. Continue reading “France Doesn’t Do Fast Food”

What UK Women Need to Know About The Men of France

At the risk of sparking a mass emmigration from England of women in their early 30s, let me tell you about the men of rural France. They are practical. They build things and fix things and they love it. A couple of days after I moved in, the boyfriend popped outside to help the wood man who was delivering our logs. He came back about 40 minutes later and, peaking out of the duvet where I was having a lie-in, I commented that it had taken a while. “I just thought I’d build a roof for the log area and a BBQ shelf while I was there,” he said off-hand. He had no idea all this hammering, drilling, sawing and digging is actually incredibly sexy. Maybe it’s because I worked in the media, but most of the men I know in England are completely inept at any sort of DIY. Continue reading “What UK Women Need to Know About The Men of France”