Archive | February, 2013

Stranded in the UK with a bad case of man flu

26 Feb

The plan was to return to France very late Sunday night, passing through Paris in the early hours and be home by 3pm Monday.

Unfortunately Richard got man flu on Saturday and no way was he able to do the journey. So we have postponed the return until the same time this Wednesday. In the meantime he has a pharmacy full of drugs – antibiotics, pain killers, inhalers. It does seem to be working though!

P&O Ferries charged a very reasonable £10 to change the booking, although paying 15p per minute to call them was a bit irritating.

Electrical problems solved

19 Feb

I’m pleased to report that we have solved the problem with the electrics. The main switch was cutting out each night, which meant traipsing down to the ground floor to turn it back on.

Eventually we realised that the supply in France is pre-determined by the tariff you are on. If you’re load exceeds the maximum power allowed then the switch trips. We were on 15kVA and clearly this wasn’t enough for eight electric radiators, two water heaters, two dish washers, a washing machine, lighting and a lift!

So raising the supply to 28 kVA has solved the problem. It meant ensuring an EDF engineer visited to change the switch, but that’s another story!

We will miss our nightly stroll down two flights of steps and back up again!

New Furniture

15 Feb

Yesterday, late afternoon, about 6pm, our new furniture was delivered. And we are delighted with our two new settees.

It was by chance that we discovered the showroom of Mr Dupand in Carcassonne. We had just left the organic supermarket Tourne Sol when we spotted his furniture shop. We popped in to have a look and really liked the look of a kitchen dresser in new oak. Until we heard the price, that is! Obviously a place selling good quality and locally made furniture but probably beyond our price range.

Then Trish spotted a couple of leather settees. I sat down on one, as my legs were quite painful that day. Then Trish sat on the other and discovered that the seats were not so deep as to keep her little legs sticking out! In fact it was very comfortable.

We discussed it with the owner. It turned out he and his wife had only recently started the business as he had been working for someone else and that store had closed. He couldn’t have been more helpful in explaining things to us. We discussed the merits of leather versus fabric when living with a hairy dog!

He made us an offer. He had reduced the price down from €2,500 to €1,900 and offered to deliver them in that price. We went away to think about it as it was a big investment. However Trish’s settlement with her last employer had unexpectedly included an extra month’s salary, so we decided to shell out some of that on this. We went back a few days later and handed over our cash. Literally, as we are still waiting for our Certicodes to arrive which would allow us to make online payments ((but that’s another story)!

He turned up himself with his delivery drivers and managed the manoeuvre of getting two settees up to the first floor, via lift for one but he other was just too big and had to go up the outside steps. When they’d finished we showed hem round the appartment; they were impressed by the size of the place and one thought we could host indoor sports in the main training area.

Now our living room is looking great and we can’t wait to invite friends to come and join us there!




12 Feb

Today we went to Toulouse to take Louise to the airport. She’s flying to Thailand to visit her son for a month.

As we were there, we decided to go to IKEA and seek ideas for our new kitchen. In the event, we decided not to buy new and this week we are going to visit the sales rooms in Carcassonne, to see if there any old kitchen dressers, cupboards and tables for sale. The new stuff just looked, err, too new!

But we didn’t come away empty handed, which is, after all, the objective of IKEA’s forced route march around their store! We found some lights for the study area, some throws for the settees, an indoor drying rack, and a few other bits and bobs. We also took away leaflets on book racks and cupboards, having learnt from previous experience to never buy from IKEA on impulse! Now at least we have some measurements and we can now work out whether they will fit before we buy!

Toulouse old town is a delight. Narrow, cobbled streets with very tight parking spaces. Bikes have priority and cyclists come at you from all directions.

And Toulouse airport is also a delight. It’s big enough to cope and small enough to care. Although it’s a major hub in south west France, it never seems that busy.



10 Feb


Had our first volunteer here this week. His name is Jeff from Belgium. He built our greenhouse for us after preparing the ground for it. Just needs the door and windows putting in before I can start planting seeds for transplanting into the garden. I just need tons of manure now as the soil is very sandy.

Been here two weeks

7 Feb

It’s two weeks since we moved to France and we feel quite at home. Thanks to Louise for the warm welcome and for sharing the food and cooking.

It’s been interesting and our first impressions have been favourable. The weather has not been too bad. The food is great and it’s a lovely region.

It’s not all roses – the electricity cutting out is tiresome and contacting EDF’s call centre is a dire experience.

But we are rapidly getting into the French way of life! Tomorrow, the circus!

Afternoon off

5 Feb

We decided to have an afternoon off from unpacking and furniture moving. So we took the Fiat Tempra for a spin and went to Narbonne, which is about 40 minutes away fom Carcassonne by motorway.

We had a lovely afternoon strolling around this lovely town. We stopped for a coffee in the square by the Hotel de Ville (Town Hall, and no, they don’t offer beds for the night!). Then we ate some crèpes from a stall. We decided to drive back along the non- motorway route; took a bit longer but more interesting.

20130205-222601.jpg This is the town hall in Narbonne.

20130205-222705.jpg And this is the citadel of Carcassonne as soon from the motorway rest area.

First transaction

4 Feb

Trish used her Carte Bleue for the first time today. And it worked! We purchased a week’s worth of groceries at the organic supermarket in Carcassonne, called Tourne Sol or sunflower in English. We spent €90 which was €10 less than Trish had put into the account originally!

We are now waiting for the details of how to access the account on-line.

Mobile Phone

2 Feb

Not only do La Poste supply stamps and other postal services, they also sell mobile phones! So we decided to purchase a SIM card for Trish’s htc smartphone.

It couldn’t have been easier. The lady behind the desk at La Poste in Montolieu inserted the new SIM for us and handed me the phone so I could check it worked and asked me to call my mobile, so that we could discover the new number.

Then, back home, I called Utility Warehouse, our mobile phone supplier, and cancelled the contract with a month’s notice. So those of you that have Trish’s private mobile number, please note that it is no longer working! You’ll have to email her for her new French mobile number!

Les cartes bleue

2 Feb

Our PIN codes arrived through the post this morning so our CB Visa debit cards are ready to go. We have chosen the type that debit our account immediately; we could have chosen to have the total amount owing debited each month but we prefer to pay out as we go. That way there are no end of month surprises!

The next step is to use them! We have been told that to actuate them we have to make a purchase at a merchant or use a cash machine (Guichet Automatique Bancaire or Distributeur Automatique de Billets, as they are called in France).