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The world appears to be getting crazier and in more turmoil but at least Francois Hollande is more popular in the polls.  It would appear the Hebdo incident and his part in the failed peace treaty for Ukraine have made voters like him more.


Has Grexit been averted?  I think not but how long does it take to print a set of Drachma?


So the French town of Cesson-Sevigne has banned the use of “mademoiselle” and from now on every female is to be called madame?  Can we hope for the decline of the 'tu' to help us confused foreigners?


It must be lunar that all these strange things are happening, oh yes 'gong hey fat choy'. But by the way, isn't Chinese new year is usually in January?


For the second time in a month Russian bombers have skirted around British airspace, they were seen off by the RAF yesterday when they were lurking around Cornwall.


Are you ready to understand the internet of things? It would appear it's one of the next big things in technology, keep an eye out for it!


Well, we all thought Vanilla Ice was a silly name for a rapper, however I hadn’t realised his real name, which explain a lot. Robert Van Winkle, he should have in fact been a rip star.  I only saw it because he's been arrested over accusations of  breaking into and stealing from an abandoned house in Florida.  He was supposedly renovating the house next door, from which items had been stolen. I haven’t so far found out if he owned the house he was renovating or has indeed turned into a white van general builder man.


Not long now and we should be into the warmer weather, garden furniture in the big supermarkets and packets of seeds in Lidl are the modern version of hearing the first cuckoo of spring.




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Lost in France


In memory of vide greniers to come as the season starts to wake up again.


How much orange can one person take?  Houses here seem to be designed with paysan chic interiors, full of orange; wallpaper, table cloths, curtains, and seat covers.  Vide greniers are predominantly full of pink (children’s clothes, toys and bikes) and orange (cushions, material, stall covers etc).   And even with my sunglasses on it’s a bit much first thing on a Sunday morning.  My theory is that pink, red and orange colours make people angry and frustrated so give me black any day.



Talking about frustration, at an attempt to find a vide grenier one time, I drove to Trebes as I knew they could be relied on to give good grenier but instead of bric a brac it was a vegetable and artisan market with a glut of containers and covers in orange - as well as oranges.

I decided to try my luck at Villemoustaussou. 

As I drove from Trebes I was looking out for road signs to the village, there was one directing heavy vehicles to Villemoustaussou so I carried on….. in the wrong direction, away from the village.  I was tempted to give up at this point but I valiantly turned round and there it was - a sign!  I’m sure I’ve mentioned here before my frustration with French road signs – this time I found the sign I wanted coming back the other way.


I always liked Villemoustaussou because of its name but realised as I drove into it that the last time I’d been there the vide grenier had been rubbish.  However, I continued on with Steve’s advice ringing in my ears that you can’t judge a village’s vide greniers by the last one you went to there.  After a deviation leading me through what must be one of the ugliest housing estates in the region I finally find the market.  Hurrah!  It is better, fuller, busier and less orange. 


My best buy is gilt not orange, a vintage cigarette case shaped like a globe along with some old suitcases and a book by Richard Wright called 'The Children of Uncle Tom' published in 1946 with a foreword by Paul Robeson.






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Time to revisit an old friend this week, the exchange rate.  Long term sufferers of my monthly missives will possibly recall  that in my dim and distant past I used to be an international banker, and for part of that time a foreign exchange dealer.  It was so long ago that we used to have exotic currencies such as the French Franc; Italian Lire, and even the Deutschmark. Heady days indeed.  By the time I escaped from the banking world in 2002 these currencies were dead, or perhaps more accurately held in a cryogenic state, ready to be reheated if need be. The exchange rate between Sterling and the new super-currency, the Euro, was in the mid 1.60s in 2002, and had declined to the mid 1.50s when I finally got to France in 2003.  By the time I bought property here in 2004, I averaged 1.45. 



The trend was set, but few people were prepared for it.  During the financial meltdown in 2007 and 2008 ‘la merde a vraiment frappé le ventilateur’, and the pound plummeted almost to parity with the Euro by the end of 2008.  In 2009 I stupidly agreed to start a weekly column for an internet magazine, giving my predictions for the week to come.  I struggled with this millstone for nearly three years.  My basic message was  that large F/X movements like this are always exaggerated.  Parity was plainly nonsense, and the pound ought to recover to between 1.25 and 1.30.  It takes some ingenuity to deliver this basic message 130 times, and in 2012, with the pound at 1.25, I called it a day.  I still remember the sense of relief when I realised I wouldn’t have to sit down at 4pm on any more Fridays to write about why the previous week’s forecast had been so wrong.



It was a good time to stop, as the rate fell again during the second half of 2012 to 1.15 before slowly resuming its upward trend.  Interested parties, and by that I mean all expats, probably didn’t take too much notice as we clawed our way back up through 1.20s and on to 1.25 once more.  Then, at the start of November last year, a big market move started, and people began to sit up and take notice. Two months later, and as I write, we are at a shade under 1.35.  So what is going on?


Politics and economics are of course the answers.  They govern supply and demand, which is the final arbiter of the exchange rate.  Germany, the powerhouse of Europe, now has a stagnating economy, and Greece, not the powerhouse of Europe, is stirring up political trouble.  None of this bodes well for the Euro.  So we can all sit back and relax.  The pound is heading back to 1.60.  Hundreds of thousands of Brits will be pouring into France waving their new cheap wads of Euro, buying up all the property in sight and sending up the values of our houses at the same time.


Does anyone really think that?  I certainly don’t. There is no such thing as a safe bet in the currency markets.  You must never forget Murphy’s law.  Whenever you really want something to happen, Murphy’s law dictates that the opposite will occur. 



I think that we are approaching the time when we need to think about selling Sterling.  I don’t think we’re there yet, but we need to be careful.  We live, after all, in the Euro zone, and thus most of the money we spend is Euros.  We may have pensions or indeed other income in Sterling, but that won’t buy your morning croissant. Until you change it into Euro; it is largely useless while you live here. Of course there is nothing you can do about your UK State pension, if you are in receipt of that princely sum. You will just have to be savvy about when and how you convert it. You can however do a great deal with an occupational pension, and you can do a great deal with your savings and investments.  There is no better time than now to take a long hard look at your UK pension pot.  Savings and investments held in non French tax efficient bond are a nonsense.  Come and talk to me about them now!


For years now Spectrum have been advising clients on pensions and investments, and I have been keen to point out that clients who have Sterling assets do not need to convert them to Euro to make use of the products available to them outside the UK.  Those clients who have transferred their assets in Sterling are most probably quite pleased that they did not convert, but what about now?  What if we hit 1.40, or 1.45?  For my money the only way is down from there, back to my preferred levels.  If we do get to 1.40, I will certainly be looking long and hard at my Sterling funds, with my finger hovering over the deal button.


If you have any questions on this, or any other subject, please don’t hesitate to contact me, Rob Hesketh:

By phone on 0468 247758 or mobile 0631 787647


Or by mail at   You can find out more about Spectrum at  and

The Spectrum IFA Group advisers do not charge any fees for their time or for advice given, as can be seen from our Client Charter at


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Despite the sudden cold snap recently spring really is on it's way.  If you grow mophead or lacecap hydrangeas (or hortensias as they are known in France or Hydrangea hortensis cultivars for those who prefer botanical Latin) you will know that they flower on current year's growth; now is the time to cut them hard back to a pair of buds.  And, with spring on the way, now is a good time to start to sow annual herbs such as basil and parsley (strictly a biennial but treated as an annual) in small pots in a frost free but not too warm environment so that you have fresh herbs ready to plant out when there is no further danger of frost. 

We tend to think of red hot pokers as being summer flowering plants but Kniphofia sarmentosa from Soth Africa brings a slightly exotic touch of colour to the garden during February.  It is a hardy evergreen perennial which reaches about 75cm in height with a spread of about 50cm.  It likes a sunny position and well drained soil.  I have noticed blackcap warblers feeding on the nectar of this plant in winter, making it a useful addition to a wildlife garden.

At La Petite Pépinière we are offering two gardening courses this spring:

An Introduction to Pruning – Wednesday 18th March, 10am to 4pm

This will be an introduction to the principles and practice of pruning, why, when and how.  Practical work in the garden here will be included and we will focus on pruning practices relating to plants frequently found in gardens in the region.  Course fee:  45€

Propagation:  Thursday 19th March, 10am to 4pm

An introduction to the principles of propagation - how to increase your own plants by layering, division, seeds and cuttings.  Plenty of practical work included.   Course fee:  45€

For more information email


For any garden queries do get in touch with Gill Pound ( 04 68 78 43 81 or ). La Petite Pépinière de Caunes 21, av de la Montagne Noire (route de Citou) 11160 Caunes-Minervois. The nursery and garden don't have regular opening hours during the winter months but we are always open by appointment, just phone or email to arrange a time if you would like to visit; regular opening hours will start on the 27th February when we'll be open every Friday, Saturday & Sunday from 10am to 6pm until the end of November.    We are currently in the process of up-dating our website (thanks to Bruce Taylor) so please have a look for an up to date list of plants we  propose this year and lots of new photos.

La Petite Pépinière de Caunes

21, av de la Montagne Noire,
11160 Caunes-Minervois
04 68 78 43 81 








Importing a private vehicle from the UK: how to do it (and what it costs)

I’ve just come back from the Prefecture in Carcassonne having registered my UK car here in France, and I thought it might be interesting and perhaps useful to fellow Aude and Ariège readers if I went through the process. The fact that I am drinking a glass of wine as I write will give you a clue as to the stress levels that have been involved (and the sense of relief now that it is all over). Please note that all this information is based on my experience as a private individual importing a second-hand Peugeot from the UK.

Getting to the Prefecture this afternoon was the last in a series of steps that have taken a month to complete. The delay was largely due to the fact that I bought the car in the UK at the start of January and had to wait 2 weeks for the DVLA to issue the new registration documents. This prevented me from getting on with the certificate of conformity, for example. Even so, it is not a quick process as you need to factor in garage time (changing the headlights) and getting a French MOT (Contrôle technique) if your car is more than 4 years old. So basically you need to start the ball rolling as soon as you arrive back in France with your new car, since technically you only have one month and can be fined if you leave it later.


To save time: if you speak French, you can find all the information you need at


Alternatively you can ring the AlloService-Public service on 3939, where basically they will read out the information you can find on the website.  


What I needed (original + scans/photocopies):


1. My DVLA vehicle registration document in the original (for the Prefecture) plus one photocopy (for the “certificate of conformity”; see 5). I had to surrender the original at the Prefecture, so I was glad that I had made an extra photocopy beforehand as otherwise I would have had no record. Section 11 (Notification of permanent export) was given back to me, however.


2.  3 photocopies of my passport: one for the certificate of conformity (see 5), one for the “Quitus fiscal” (see 7), one for the Prefecture (see 8).

3.  3 photocopies of proof of my French residence or “Justicatif de domicile” (one for the certificate of conformity, one for the “Quitus fiscal”, one for the Prefecture). I used a phone bill, but it could be your EDF or Lyonnaise bill, as long as it’s recent. Obviously it needs to be in the name of the car owner.

4.  The original invoice for the purchase of the car in the UK, plus two photocopies.

Don’t panic about it being in English: despite what it says on the website about needing official translations, mine was accepted without question. But you need to work out the equivalent mileage in kilometres and the equivalent ££ in Euros when you get to the tax office (see below).

So far, so good. Now it gets more expensive.

5. The Certificate of Conformity (“Certificat de conformité du constructeur”).

This is a very fancy and expensive certificate from your car manufacturer with all the technical data about your car that is basically already on your DVLA certificate, but in French. We have bought a Peugeot (“when in Rome…”), and their website told me exactly what I had to send them: a copy of the DVLA registration document; a copy of the invoice for the purchase of the car; a copy of my passport; a copy of my proof of residence; and a cheque for €190. I posted these all off and received my certificate within a week.

NB If you google “certificate de conformité”, you will see that there are online agencies who offer to get the certificate for you. I checked one of these out, but they were quoting up to 42 days as the length of time they would require. So I’m very glad I went straight to Peugeot. In case you need it, here’s the link: and click on Attestation d’importation véhicule d’occasion.

6. MOT / Contrôle technique

This is another expensive bit because it involves changing the headlights in the car (for my Peugeot 308, a staggering €660) and then getting the MOT done (€50-60). As it turned out, I didn’t need a Contrôle technique because the car I have imported is less than 4 years old. So I could have put off changing the lights for a big longer too, I suppose. But if you are importing a car MORE than 4 years old, you definitely need the Contrôle technique certificate (which you won’t get unless you change the headlights) and accompanying numbers of photocopies.

NB Not all French officials know their onions. I was very glad that I had printed out the official information from the government website when I went along to the tax office in Limoux, since they were firmly convinced that all cars over 2 years old (i.e. not 4) needed a Contrôle technique.

7. Quitus fiscal

A quite staggering bit of French bureaucracy. I still haven’t quite understood it, but it’s something to do with VAT. You need to go to your local Service des Impôts (in my case, Limoux) with the following:

a copy of the invoice for the car purchase; the DVLA document; a copy of the certificate of conformity; copy of your passport; copy of your proof of residence, plus absolutely everything else just in case.

The tax official will get out a big book that does carbon copies (!) and write you out a “Certificat d’acquisition d’un véhicule terrestre à moteur”, for which he/she needs you to work out the equivalent price in euros and the equivalent mileage in kilometres. You then sign it, he/she stamps it, and that’s it. No charge (unless you count all the taxes we pay to allow these people to retire at an age younger than myself…), just a lot of pen-pushing.

8. Prefecture

The last leg! I went to the Prefecture in Carcassonne straight from the Service des Impôts in Limoux. I had tried to download the final form (CERFA no. 13750*03) from the website at

but needless to say it seemed to think I didn’t have the latest version of Adobe, so wouldn’t let me. It didn’t matter since the gentleman at the Accueil at the Prefecture gave me one. As a form it is largely straightforward, but I was very glad to have my French-language certificate of conformity to hand, as it enabled me to find information such as the “Numéro d’identification” and (more obscurely) the “Genre national”.  Having filled in, signed and dated the form, you go back to the Accueil and hand it in with the original DVLA certificate, the original Quitus fiscal, a copy of your passport, proof of residence and (if relevant) Contrôle technique. The receptionist checks all the bits of paper, staples them together and – assuming all is in order - gives you a number. You then wait to be called to a different desk about 20 yards away, where a lady unstaples the pile of papers (at this point it all begins to feel quite surreal), goes through the whole lot again, types away in silence and eventually gives you a second number, which is the queue to pay. In my case this was actually all very quick.

Finally I was allowed to pay - €270.50 – and was given a Certificat Provisoire d’Immatriculation, with the assurance that the definitive one will arrive in the post. The provisional certificate has allowed me to sort out the insurance properly and order the number plates (next stops after the Prefecture).

Total cost (excluding number plates): €1120.50

Was it worth it? We have bought a December 2011 Peugeot 308 estate 1.6 HDI, 51,000 miles, diesel, one previous owner, right-hand drive, for £6,400. We could have bought, through our local Peugeot dealer, a September 2009 Peugeot 308 2.0 HDI with 74,000 km, diesel, one previous owner, left-hand drive, for €10,477. In other words, we’ve still ended up with a newer car for a (slightly) lower price. So yes, worth it, although I’ll be planting a few trees to make up for the paperwork.

Karen McDermott, Rennes-le-Château












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 Razes circulade village

Period house in a beautiful Razes circulade village.  This renovated but unspoilt house is over 200 years old and has far reaching views of countryside, hills and mountains from almost every room, and a stunning roof terrace.  There are 3 double bedrooms, large lounge, separate dining room and kitchen.  There is also a very large walk-thru cellar.  The house retains many period features including a beautiful oak staircase.  

Price 99,000 euros. .




Former Presbetary with courtyard near town centre



 Village house to renovate with a courtyard of 80m²




Bordebasse du Lac - Cottage available for long term rental

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Holiday Apartment AiguaBlava,

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Naturist Property 97,500 euro


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 readers write


Does anyone have an MPV (people carrier) with 6 or more seats that they would be prepared to swap for one week this August for our lovely (Left Hand Drive) 5 seater Escort XR3i Convertible?  We have 4 members of the family joining my wife and I for a week from 6 to 13 August and it would be great to travel places together in one car during the week.  We are based at La Force - near Montreal - and would bring the car to do the swap - and again at the end of the week to swap back.




Some vide greniers and foires!
Please check before setting off
They also have a sister site where you can giveaway stuff or find stuff others are giving
Its all recycling - you know it makes sense!
If there are two in the same town on the same day, it could be a duplicate on the site or a second event
Black = Aude - Brown = Ariege

Samedi 21 Février 2015

CoursanVide grenier à Coursan

Cuxac-d'AudeVide grenier

BélestaVide greniers special pêches eau douce et mer

Saverdun Videgreniers + brocante

Dimanche 22 Février 2015

AzilleVide grenier du cyclo club

CarcassonneVide grenier brocante

CoursanVide grenier à Coursan

Cuxac-d'Audevide grenier, brocante

GruissanVide greniers des amures

MontréalVide grenier des majorettes Montréalaises

Saint-YbarsVide grenier mensuel

Pamiers  Marché et puces et à la brocantes

Samedi 28 Février 2015

CoursanVide grenier à Coursan

Cuxac-d'AudeVide grenier

RieucrosBourse aux livres

Saverdun Videgreniers + brocante

Dimanche 1 Mars 2015

Capendu Vide grenier cap arc-en ciel

CoursanVide grenier à Coursan

CarcassonneVide grenier brocante

Cuxac-d'AudeVide grenier

FabrezanVide grenier Brocante La Boule Fabrezannaise

Labécède-LauragaisPuces de couturières et loisirs créatifs

Limoux Brocante mensuelle

MoussoulensVide grenier

MazèresVide grenier mensuel

MontgailhardVide dressing

PamiersMarché et puces et à la brocantes

RieucrosBourse aux livres

Saint-Lizier Marché aux Puces, de la cave au grenier



Vendredi 27 Février à 20h30 - Théâtre Jean-Alary, 6 rue Courtejaire

 What's On




NINA HAGEN 24 March Bikini Toulouse

WOODSTOCK GENERATION 27 March Bikini Toulouse

WWE LIVE 16 April Zenith Toulouse

RIVAL SONS 22 April Bikini Toulouse

DIRTY DANCING 1/3 May Zenith Toulouse

THE RED ARMY CHOIR 3 Nov Zenith Toulouse

LA TRAVIATA 28 Nov Zenith Toulouse

SCORPIONS 4 Dec Zenith Toulouse




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