Thursday, February 5, 2009

The Property Market in South West France - Post October 2008



We were all sitting there in late October last year, staring at our TV and Computer screens and seeing report after report of bad news coming out of the International Banking and Property sectors.

The sub-prime mortgage balloon had burst and brought major chaos in the financial markets, firstly in the US, and then rapidly followed by similar collapses in the UK, Germany and the Far East.

Bad news seems to breed bad news, even if there is little linkage between each reported event, and the mainstream popular media in particular feeds and thrives on it.

I am certainly not trying to play down what happened. I have been involved in the Property and Construction World for over thirty years; firstly training as an Architect in the early seventies and then later on working in the Construction Products Manufacturing Industry throughout the "boom and bust" downturn cycles of the eighties and early nineties. So I have seen confidence evaporate before, although admittedly perhaps not this quickly.

However, I am also long enough in the tooth to remember that during each "collapse" we had the doom-merchants warning us that it would never, ever, be the same buoyant investment vehicle again, only to see the property market subsequently rise up, refreshed and even more vigorous than before.

So, I am predicting, without hesitation, that the property market will not only survive this fall but will re-emerge, renewed and very much alive, and perhaps a lot quicker than many of the current generation of "experts" are now telling us.

Property prices are driven by two major factors; firstly the supply of the product against the demand, and secondly the ability of the purchaser to finance the acquisition - in particular the availability of mortgage loan finance.

Remember also that the UK economy is so closely tied to a positive continuous growth model in property prices (which guarantees the income returns for the major part of the UK Pension Fund Industry) that it is this factor more than any other which will, before too long, ensure that the property market is made to thrive again, and the money market makers know this only too well.

The underlying supply of housing in the UK will never meet all the demand pressures built into the system - increasing numbers of single households, limits on available building land, growing population densities and labour-force immigration. As for the supply of finance, in the dark days after the Crash, the number of new mortgage approvals hit a record low of around only 5,000 in November 2008. However, recent Council of Mortgage Lenders predictions estimate that this is likely to have risen to over 30,000 in January 2009. Interest rates are at their lowest ever, and look likely to stay there for some time.

The other piece of "bad news" being fed into the mind-set of potential overseas property buyers was the so-called "exchange rate crisis". Whilst it is true that at virtual parity against the Euro, Sterling seemed to have lost 30% of its purchasing power in 18 months. However, in more recent days it has re-climbed to around 1.14, and the "smart money" is forecasting it will settle back to around 1.20 once the true market exposure position of the European Banks to their currently unacknowledged bad debt portfolio becomes clearer.

It may seem slightly paradoxical but the fall of Sterling versus the Euro exchange rate has actually opened up an unexpected "window" of opportunity for UK investors looking to secure a bargain and a good medium term return, in a relatively stable marketplace.

Let me explain that comment further. France has always had a far less volatile property market than the UK. The rises were not so spectacular, but the falls are always far less dramatic. Owning a property in France for a non-national is a simple process, with good legal protection via their Notaire Registration procedures.

The costs of owning an investment property in France, ie not your principal residence, are also low. France has one of the lowest rates of "annual property taxes" of anywhere in the Western World. Admittedly, in the big cities Tax Fonciere can be high but in the Countryside owning a property - as a second home and thus except from "Tax d'Habitation" - can be less than a quarter of that of a similar UK Property. So, the financial outgoings of owning property in France will not make much of an impact, even with a weakening exchange rate.

But the real opportunity at the moment is very surprising, and as I said earlier almost paradoxical.

I was at a meeting the other day with Trevor Leggett , Owner of Leggett Immobilier, the largest British owned estate agency in France -

website http://www.frenchestateagents.com/

Trevor was telling us that there are a significant number of British Ex-Pats at the moment who, often because of changes in their domestic and family situations (divorces, bereavements etc - rather than disenchantment with France), are now very keen to return to the UK.

Many of these vendors had set their selling prices when the Euro was at around 1.4 against Sterling . ie for their asking price of 280,000 Euros they were planning on having 200,000 Pounds to spend on a property back in the UK. So, when the exchange rate dropped, to let's say 1.10, rather than be "greedy" and try and pocket the additional "windfall bonus" they mostly have taken the view that as they were only expecting 200,000 pounds they can afford to reduce their asking price to say 220,000 Euros and still be no worse off. Indeed the 200,000 pound house they were looking at is now valued at around 185,000 pounds anyway! This has incredible potential for UK buyers who can act quickly.

For a wise buyer or investor, that same 220,000 Euro property can be bought for 200,000 pounds. (the same sterling cash sum as it would have cost 18 months ago at 280,000 Euros) The benefit for the purchaser is that they will have bought a "Euro" priced property for around 30% under market value !! Indeed Trevor confirmed that the average price drop, across the whole of his site, is around 20% - with bargains now being actively encouraged by vendors at 30, 40 and even 50% off previous asking prices. This is certainly the time to buy, and with the right advice and back-up as to the location and condition of the property and it's potential income yield, UK investors should be seriously looking at buying property now here in South West France.

As an example, a completely renovated Town House on the Historic Old Plateau of Angouleme is now currently on the market at around 150,000 pounds. Rental potential is very strong, either for the local permanent executive professional market or the highly lucrative holiday let and festival visitor sector. It is estimated that you could expect around 700 pounds per month, averaged across the year - as a permanent let - with up to 800 pounds a week in high season as a holiday let.

the link is
http://www.frenchestateagents.com/french-property-for-sale-in-Charente-france-9885JW16.html

For further information on this property, and some of the other bargain properties and excellent opportunities for investors in South West France please do not hesitate to contact me on the link below

johnwest@charentegems.com

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other blogs by John West include;

http://www.lost-in-france.com/expat-blogs/Angouleme-one-of-the-secret-Gems-of-the-Charente.html

http://www.lost-in-france.com/expat-blogs/Curry-in-the-Charente.html

http://www.lost-in-france.com/expat-blogs/St-Martin-de-RA-.....-UNESCO-World-Heritage-Site-...-and-shopping-.html

http://www.lost-in-france.com/expat-blogs/The-Sun-is-wonderful-for-the-digestion-system-.html

Angouleme - one of the secret Gems of the Charente

Previous Blog Entry - from May 2008

I know I have said it before ... but sometimes things excite you SO much that you just have to keep telling people. Even more so when you feel you have stumbled on something truly special ... and no-one else seems to know anything about it !!

I am talking about Angouleme, the stunning cream limestone city perched majestically on a high rock outcrop overlooking the winding Charente River. Although it is the capital town of the Charente Department, and once boasted a top-class rugby team back in the 1980's captained by the late great Maurice Colclough, the grand slam winning England International second row forward, it is virtually unknown to the outsider.

Indeed Maurice was revered so much by the locals that he was nick-named the Prince of Angouleme and, on his recent untimely death, a special testimonial was held where the match was started by a drop-kick from one of his daughter


Photo of Bill Beaumonts Grand Slam Winning Team of 1980 ... Maurice Colclough outlined in Yellow - and Clive Woodward MBE in Red !!

So why is Angouleme still such an undiscovered Gem? Perhaps it is the natural reticence of the locals to seriously "blow their own trumpet" (the local tourist information board has had three directors in as many years) or just their good natured easy-going manner, which can sometimes be a little too laid back for their own good!

The opening up of the new Ryanair Link into Angouleme-Cognac Airport in April 2008 will definately bring Angouleme to the wider attention of British Visitors

At present however, many potential visitors seldom take the trouble to venture into its heart. Maybe it is because on first sight, as you wind your way down the N10 from the Poitiers Plains, you are greeted by a large conurbation, with industrial suburbs, commercial superstores and all the bustle that goes with a modern city. Many drivers head on by - pushing on south east towards Bordeaux and Spain, or south west into the Dordogne and the Lot Valley - but they are missing something truly special.


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Having lived in the Angouleme area for the best part of a decade now, I have come to love its quaint cobbled streets, with charming squares and secret hide-aways, and its laid-back and yet vibrant youthful attitude.

For those of you unaware of its charms, I urge you to visit .. Follow signs to "Centre Ville" and head up onto the Old Plateau. Stop off at Les Halles, a sunny square dominated by a "Victorian Era" cast-iron and glass indoor market hall.

.... Place des Halles
Here you will find outdoor tables and chairs, belonging to Le Chat Noir or the Blues Rock Café, both worthy of a visit, and bustling with locals and visitors alike.

..... Blues Rock Café ........ ..... ...... Le Chat Noir

Sit under the shady trees in summer, sipping your favourite tipple, and listen to the outdoor Bands that play here every Thursday evening from June till September.


Just round the corner, pop into the Girafe Bar with its interesting African art decor, warm friendly patrons and great "indie" music. Dont forget to visit the Place de Minage, with its cast-iron fountain and gravelled heart where the locals play Boules in the evenings.

.... Place de Minage

Venture further up the cobbled street and you will need to wind your way through the outdoor tables, crammed with diners enjoying the warm evening air. The choice is very wide, Classic French like "Chez Pauls", where you are likely to be sitting next to the editor of the Charente Libre, or even "Monsieur Le Maire" himself.


In Summer, the tables and the dinners come outside !!
For a more modern meal, try the beautifully cooked "Tex-Mex" style brochettes and nachos of "Le Cabana" Bar.



And for those of you that fancy a more "exotic" approach, there are Vietnamese, Chinese, Lebanese, Caribbean, Italian, and an excellent Curry House !! , see my previous blog, at the Jardin de Kashmir.

And of course, I doubt there is a city in the World where there isn't at least one "Irish Bar" ( I even found one myself in Sarajevo during the Bosnian Civil War, which was acting as the unofficial social HQ for the various UN peace-keeping contingents !) We have ours in Angouleme too, "le Kennedy Bar" just round the corner from Chez Pauls.


Fancy a Pint of Guinness ?? ( just remember to pronounce it in French .... basically "Pin" .. with a soft "t" added ... not "Pine with a hard t")

And then there are the Festivals! - Firstly we have the "Circuit de Remparts", where vintage cars from all of Europe descend on Angouleme for the third weekend in September to race round the streets (This year the Official Guest of Honour was none other than Stirling Moss!) In April and May we have the street theatre festival and the "Musique Métisses" Jazz and Cross-Over Music events. In October and November we have the "Piano en Valois" festival and January sees the Cartoon Community descend in force on central Angouleme, with the squares covered in temporary marquees - even over the fountains!


The National Centre of BD .. Museum
one of the classic "trompe d'oeil" .... one of those girls isnt real !!!


again .. this is in reality a flat gable end !!

To sum it all up .... Angouleme is a wonderful small city, full of charm and surprise glimpses of "L'art de BD" cartoons painted on the walls of over 150 buildings. Come and visit it, and marvel, as I do, at its never-ending ability to delight and uplift the senses.


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Petanque .... It develops your intelligence ? ... or is it just a load of Boules

Previous Blog Entry - dateline 20 August 2008

Each time I log onto the internet my homepage is set to Yahoo.fr ... more out of a touching loyalty to my adopted country I suppose than for the current topics of interest on the page itself.
Usually I just check my French Yahoo Emails and then happily head off into cyber-space, but the other day one of the featured items on the homepage caught my eye.

The article was authored by a certain Célian Olivier , an educational psychologist, and was being presented as a serious piece of academic research !! ( not just a "load of boules" !!)


...... a load of boules ? ? ?

The headline read "Develop Your IQ with Petanque" and despite starting with a slightly derogatory sentence about the players often being somewhat handicapped by having the "Breath of Pastis" the piece goes on to make extraordinary claims about how playing Petanque develops the neurones of the brain, aids mental concentration and increases memory, and develops good spacial awareness ( a bit obvious really that bit) ... and even refines ones "Game Theory" strategy !! Take a quick look yourself on this link

Yahoo.fr ...

Anyway, I was intrigued ....but something didnt quite seem right. Now you might be someone who genuinely believes that the "News" featured on these sites are actually "New" ... after all the internet is a wonderful tool for spreading new ideas and the latest up-to-date information isnt it ???

But I had my doubts on this one ...you see, I had once had a brief "love affair" with the noble 'game' of Petanque and I was sure I had read something remarkably similar before ... but not presented as a serious piece of academic work ... more as a 'tongue in cheek' p*** take !!

So I did some "academic research" of my own ... ( okay I used "Google" !! ) .... and guess what ??? I found that it appears that most of the article had been "borrowed" from other work !!! ( well isnt that a surprise !!)

Petanque.org ... is the "must read" website for all Boules-Heads !! Take a look at this link .... a wonderful parody of Le Canard Echainé .... Le Bouliste Echainé ... just look at the piece at the bottom left of the page on the right ...

". ..Les qualités intellectuelles développées par le jeu sont nombreuses. On peut citer, entre autres, l'attention, la concentration, le travail de la mémoire, le recours au calcul mental et aux projections sur les probabilités. .. " .... sound familiar ???

Not that I'm knocking the skills involved in serious Boules play. A good pair of "doublettes" are an amazing sight to see.

There is usually the mischievous vocal one ...full of flamboyant gestures .. Gallic flare ... oh yes .. and a suitable intake of pastis !! .. his role is to two-fold, to gently wind-up his opponents and be the "pointer" - ie place his boules as near to the jack ( cochonnet) as possible .. without appearing to care very much ( explained later !!) ... the real "star" of the team however is the quiet one - le tirer - which can be translated as "shooter" or more aptly perhaps "bomber" !! Now the reason the "pointer" can't care TOO much .. is that a good "bomber" in the opposing team can quite literally take out ANY boule he wishes .. whenever he wishes ... Yes ... they really are that skilled.

At this point, a short personal story if I may. When my wife and I first moved to France in early 2002 the locals of the village where we then lived cordially invited us to their annual Petanque Tournament. So along we went ... well it'll be a laugh at least we thought !!

We were drawn out in pitch 21 !! .. way out on the edge .. "Fixed" muttered the wife .. and went off to get our newly purchased set of boules from our car. Then .. with a stubborn disregard for the traditional stance, or the "vrai esprit" of the hand palm-down throwing technique, my dear lady wife proceeded to roll her boule right up to the jack .. almost every time .. despite the gravel and bumps ... it was truely amazing to see.

This technique stunned our neighbours and caused total panic !! Now bearing in mind what I said about a good "bomber" being able to take out any boule ... that is true, BUT ..when the boule is literally touching the cochonnet the problem is that the little jack can then bounce off ANYWHERE !! and with uncanny luck .. it usually ended up touching ANOTHER of our boules !!

Well, imagine our delight when we sailed through game after game .. reaching the semi-finals !!The wife was even revelling in her local nickname " Madame La Reine" and waiving regally to the crowd after each amazing throw.

By now a large crowd of "muttering locals" had gathered at our end of the park - and with each victory .. their mood got darker. Fortunately for Anglo-French relations however by this stage we had also drank a rather significant amount of beer each ( many kindly provided - free of charge - by the local petanque club captain !! ) So .. it was with relief all round that our luck .. and spatial awareness skills .. finally ran out !!

It wasn't a great surprise when , the following year, nobody called round to ask us if we were coming down to the Tournament !! ... and would you believe it ... when we left the area the following year the local Bar Owner called us over .. gave us a wink .. and presented "Madame La Reine" with a farewell gift ... a cartoon book on "the art of petanque" .. signed by all the local committee of the Petanque Club !! - whoever said the French dont have a cutting sense of irony.
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Castles Made of Sand ... and Tilting at Windmills ….. it’s the folie d’été in the Charente !!

Previous Blog Entry - dateline 06 August 2008

Summer Madness is apparently not just a British Thing. The Seasonal Heat does seem to bring out the ridiculous in all Nationalities, and the French are no exception.

Over the last few weeks the sun here has been shinning almost non-stop and we have had temperatures well into the mid-thirties. Good news for the ardent sun worshippers among you and time to benefit from lazy days lying on the Beach for those within easy striking distance of the coast.

Here in the Charente we are equally fortunate to have our lovely River, and its various life-guard patrolled "bathing beaches" which at this time of year are a bustle of children and bronzed teenagers, playing without a care in the world. Water quality has been good this year with most of them receiving ratings of the highest level. The French Government has its own website ( in English) where you can check out the current pollution ratings of over 350 locations in mainland France ( both seaside and inland ) before you "take the plunge" .....(visit the site here) .. so you can happily sit back and relax whilst the youngsters build their sandcastles and throw sand and water at each other.


Environmental Quality is big news here in France at the moment, and Green Issues are at the top of most politicians' public agendas.

In a somewhat bizarre attempt to boost their green credentials, and under the banner of improving the quality of the environment for visitors to its Hotel de Ville , the newly installed socialist team at Angouleme City HQ have decided to create their vary own "beach" within the walls of the inner courtyard

And it might have worked !! .... you do have to wonder, however, if the lack of attention to detail (the obviously borrowed staff conference room moulded plastic chairs, and the palm trees still left in their white weave carrying sacks ... ready for return back to the Nursery at the end of the exercise) are the result of a lack of appreciation for good visual aesthetics or just a "penny-pinching" bureaucratic mind-set that thinks it really doesn't matter what it looks like ... just be pleased that we gave it to you !! . But I suppose at least they tried to follow the principle of creating a better environment.

Because when it comes to tackling the potential problems of global pollution by the adoption of renewable energy, the French have in general been very good.

They pioneered tidal barrages across the Estuaries in Western France, and have large scale hydro-electric generation facilities in the Alps. In our region recently there has been an explosion of small scale "wind farms" ... or "parc eolien" as the French call them

I took the picture on the left at the parc near Salles de Villefragnan. The site welcomes visitors ( with free public access all around ) and contains 11 slowly turning, almost majestic looking moving sculptures.





There is a smaller one just being finished near us at Xambes and the local Mayor has gone on record welcoming the turbines ( and the revenues they are bringing to the local commune !) in the English Edition of the Charente Libre newspaper. ( read the article here)

They appeared, almost overnight on our Eastern Skyline ... and as you can see from the photo I took today, do contrast dramatically with the sunflowers in a quite surreal way.



But I'm no "n.i.m.b.y" .... and from my recent trip to those at Jaladeaux, I was pleasantly surprised at how quiet, and in a funny way mentally calming and reassuring they were. I contrast this to visits I have made in the past to Power Generation Plants. ... Sellafield was dark, overpowering and really quite menacing ... barbed wire and sentry posts ... Drax B was like Dantes Inferno, vast plumes of billowing smoke and huge dirty stained cooling towers .. so, for me, a wind farm is a veritable joy !!

It's funny how we all tend to get deflected from the really important issues once we launch ourselves into a campaign in the public domain. Take the Dutch for instance. Lovely people, forward thinking, very laid-back, socially concerned .... and they just love windmills. ..... Apparently not !!

Take a look at another article that appeared in the Charente Libre the other week . ( read the article here) . Madame Mareille Schwartz, who left Holland to settle in France four years ago, has taken a very "undutch" dislike for the windmills that are being planned for her locality in The Vienne.

Whilst I am not dismissing her concerns for "due process" and proper public consultation, I can not agree with her fears on the noise issue. From my own recent observations I sat within 50 meters of a tower, and with the car windows closed could not really hear ANY discernable noise. In fact, we then walked and positioned ourselves mid-point between the road and the turbine, and the noise from the passing cars was considerably more intrusive and of far greater decibel levels. But then, unlike Madame Schwartz, I am not pursuing any public campaign ... just making my own mind up.

St Martin de Ré ..... UNESCO World Heritage Site ... and shopping !!

Previous Blog Entry - dateline 23 July 2008

In early July this year 13 new French sites were added to the list of Special World Heritage Sites by UNESCO.

These were all part of the impressive Vauban fortifications built by the French Military in the late 1680's to protect la Belle France against a potential future invasion .. by the English !!
In the South West we had two of them, The fortress citadel of Blaye on the Gironde ( to protect the approaches to Bordeaux) and the star shape citadel of St Martin de Ré, on the Ile de Ré, (guarding the channel entrance into La Rochelle).

It was such a beautiful day on Sunday that we decided to take a drive across to the Ile de Ré, and have a look around St Martin. For those of you unaware of the Island, where have you been !!!! It is the favoured hideaway destination for the smart Parisian jet set, as well as British, Dutch and German holiday makers. A haven for wild-life fanciers and bicycle riders ( of which there were thousands, happily riding around the mostly flat island on a very generous network of superb cycle paths)

The inner port of St Martin is really quite beautifully picturesque, with the traditional low-rise buildings fighting with the mast-heads of the expensive sailing boats moored along its quays.





We lingered there long enough
to enjoy a long cold french beer
at one of the many quayside bars,
before we headed up towards the
old Cathedral area and the maze
of interesting shops and back-streets.



Our first port of call was the delightfully named
"Donne Moi La Lune" ... just up from
the harbour ...run by a charming and
very helpful young French lady ... which
specialises in Arts and Crafts Produce
imported from Equador






..................... Donne Moi la Lune 11 rue Sully donnemoilalune@gmail.com

We bought several "presents" for friends ( yes okay, some were actually for ourselves !! including a simple but effective hammock chair ( well the sun is here after all ... and our trees up on the land at home just needed something hanging in their shade !!)

Further up the Hill, we came across up-market ( and very expensive !!) chic shops often hidden away within their own shaded courtyards - such as this one -


or tucked away up small alley ways, in old outbuildings ...

........................ Some of these streets have an amazing "higgeldy-piggeldy" look, with many of the buildings leaning quite disturbingly at all sorts of angles. ( the result of sandy soil foundations and the occaisional earth tremor - this is a classified earthquake zone, although only of small magnitude.)


.. Leaning Buildings. ...............

............................................................................................................ and a view of the Old Cathedral, rising above the streetscape.

The area around the old Cathedral is quieter and less commercial, and well worth the walk up from the port. White-washed stone houses , with their traditional green painted shutters, nestle side by side and project oddly shaped pantiled outbuildings at all angles into their neighbours.

So take the time to make a visit next time you are in the La Rochelle area. The toll ( granted it is almost 17 Euros at this time of year !! ) is certainly well worth it. It is not every day that you get the chance to see a World Heritage Site ... and do some fabulous shopping !!

Eating Outdoors .. Its Enjoyable .. and Good for your Health !!

Previous Blog Entry from May 1st 2008


Occasionally, under certain atmospheric weather conditions, my car radio sometimes magically picks up Radio Four ... it fades in and out a bit ... so trying to follow ball by ball commentaries of Test matches can be tricky .. but hey ho ... at least some of it gets through. ( a friend of mine once tried to enlighten me with a metrological explanation ... something to do with sun-flares and static and the length of the radio waves ... but I have to confess that the science went a little over my head ... but its always intrigued me to this day )

Anyway, I was driving into Angouleme on Friday last week sort of "half-listening" to one of our local French Radio Stations - France Blue La Rochelle I think it was - when I became aware of the interviewer talking about the effects of Sunshine !!

Mon Dieu !! , I thought, has he been trying to tune into Test Match Special ?? . No .. surely not ... I know we have a couple of Cricket Teams in the region, but they hardly make headline news !

So I turned up the volume and concentrated a little harder. It soon dawned on me that he was extolling the virtues of sunlight and outdoor living ... and .... this was the really interesting bit ... the beneficial effects sunshine has on the digestive system when you eat outside.

Now again, don't expect me to justify the science, but apparently eating outdoors has a major benefit on your health.

Although much of the technical "Scientific French" was outside my knowledge (granted, I can hold my head up quite well in Building Terminology ... "au chantier" .. and discuss the correct mixes for lime mortars and the various elements of Wall and Roof constructions, in good french, with Monsieur L'Artisan ... but discussions about bio-chemical reactions and photosynthesis ... in french .. are something that, to be totally honest, completely elude me )

However, as I said earlier, the subject of the effect of Sunshine has always fascinated me, so I screwed up my brow and listened really hard !!

I soon realized he was talking about not just quality of life, but also longevity of life !! I picked up phrases such as "increases absorption of vitamin D and C" .. "Improves Liver Function"... and boosts the ability of the body to deal with toxins.

It also apparently lowers the resting pulse rate and increases the cardiac output ... Just at that point I arrived in La Place des Halles on the entry to the Plateau of Old Angouleme. .. and guess what ... it was "packed out" with people eating their lunch outside in the sunshine !!


The Suns Out .... and so are the Locals !!



Naturally ... I just had to stop .. and take a few photos ( to justify stopping to join them for lunch of course !!) ... and as I sat there in the glorious sunshine, tucking into a nicely prepared steak and green salad, I raised a glass to "Monsieur France Blue La Rochelle" ... and quietly smiled to myself.


Its nice to know that at least some things that are ENJOYABLE are also GOOD for your health !!





Outdoor Eating .... City of Angouleme , South West France, 25th April 2008

John West dip Arch ( Oxford)
Gérant
sarl Charente Gems

Curry ..... in The Charente

Previous Blog Entry from April 2008

I am sure it is a distinctly British thing.... and I have lost count of the number of times that I have tried to tell myself that I can do without it .... because, for heavens sake, I now live in France - Gastronomic Capital of Tous Le Monde ... so surely I can resist .. but there is sometimes no stopping That Urge ... I need a Curry !! ... so I head up to the Plateau, high up on the ramparts of Old Angouleme.

Having lived in the Angouleme area for over four years now, I have come to love its quaint cobbled streets, its charming squares and secret hide-aways, and its laid-back and yet vibrant youthful attitude. For those of you unaware of its charms, I urge you to visit it ... it is probably one of the best kept secrets in South West France.

Tourist head for Cognac to the West, or pass by on their head-long flight towards the .. "now oh so very British" ... Dordogne !! or past Bordeaux and on to Spain ... But Angouleme is different, and a very special gem.


... Place de Minage ... Stay in a "Boutique Hotel" on The Old Plateau "

and then there are the locals ... warm, friendly, totally without pretentions or pomposity. They know who they are, and don't need to live up to a myth or feel the need to build on a tourist fantasy. The city of Angouleme exists in its own rite, it doesn't need to rely on attracting the "tourist dollar" and it is all the more charming and relaxed for that very reason.

But I digress .... I am by now salivating at the thought of that welcoming "take-away" ... Gambas Tandoori I think tonight ... with their Nan au Fromage, hand-made on the premises by the friendly Chef of the Jardin de Kasmir.

I can highly recommend this small, but charming, restaurant. Situated on Rue Raymond Audour, only a stones throw from the very centre of Old Angouleme, with the stunning square of Place de Minage just around the corner.

The "Patron" is warmly welcoming, without being obsequious, and is always pleased to meet travelling British customers looking for "a taste of india" !! A word of friendly advice ... be sure to ask for your "plats" extra spicy (the French palate is, unsurprisingly, less used to hot spices than us "brits", so make sure the waiter knows that you want it extra hot !!)

STOP PRESS !!!! ..... get 10% off your next meal at the Jardin of Kashmir !!!

I have managed to negociate a discount of 10% .... for all meals taken in the Jardin of Kashmir .... on Tuesdays and Sundays during May and June 2008. You can get a voucher on this link

http://charentegems.com/voucher.html
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Its been a Long Time Coming ....

Previous Blog Entry from March 2008


Its open again ... at last !!!


The Museum of Angouleme ... whose logo reads - "a museum for all, accessible to all" - has finally reopened after a break of three years for "Major Refurbishment"



.........

And its been well worth the wait !! The Museum features a wide range of the Arts, from Prehistoric Archeology of The Charente and wider artifacts, to the classic "Beaux-arts" of painting, sculpture and ceramics to a huge collection of North African and Oceania artworks, reputed to be one of the largest and most prestigious in France.

A wonderful day out. and better still ...... ITS FREE !!




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For further information .... visit their website
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STRILING MOSS is coming to ANGOULEME !!

Previous Blog Entry from 2007

lundi 10 septembre 2007

Stirling Moss ........ in Angouleme !!

I have just heard some very interesting news ! ... apparently ..... Stirling Moss ; has been invited as an "invité d'honneur" to the 2007 Circuit des Remparts vintage car rally/race in Angouleme .

For those of you who are unfamiliar with both Stirling Moss and the Circuit des Remparts I think a little explanation is required if I am to justify my tag of very interesting news !!

Firstly, for the younger among you, who think that Louis Hamilton is the main man ... think again. Stirling Moss was, in the opinion of many motor racing pundits, one of the greatest racing drivers of all time. Not only that, but his name has entered the english language as a metaphor for driving fast - very fast !! . Here's the story.

Way back in the days when the Motorway was something that Uncle Fred and Aunty Doris would look at in total disbelief from the slip road, before deciding to do a U-Turn and return back to "proper roads" - or even worse - just stop at the end of the entry lane .... and wait for a very very big gap !! ( hang on a minute .. they still drive like that in our area !!) Anyway ... the story goes that , one dark night, a police patrol car was sitting up on the motorway slip road when a streak of lightning flashed past.

They gave chase, and ... eventually .... managed to catch up with the driver, who had slowed down as the flashing blue light caught his eye.

The Policeman got out of his patrol car, tapped on the window of the offending car and, in a very ironic tone enquired of the driver ... " excuse me sir, who do you think you are , Stirling Moss ?" ... to which a well-rounded confident voice answered ... "well yes officer .. , actually I am !!"

The story may, or may not, be true .. but it has done down in our history as the classic authority figure "dumb remark" and I think most of us would like to think we could have been there to see that Officers face ... priceless !!
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