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Your reading for December

by Susan Keefe

One way ticket to Brittany, france: Everything you didn’t know you needed to know about moving to Brittany

by Jenny Lovett


51Un00pkhiL._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-v3-big,TopRight,0,-55_SX324_SY324_PIkin4,BottomRight,1,22_AA346_SH20_OU02_Nothing beats experience, and Jenny Lovett, the author of this book has just that. It is a goldmine of information covering practically everything you need to know about moving and settling down in Brittany.

It is quite common for house purchases in other countries to be carried out without proper research. Here in France, it is very easy for the heart to overtake the head when the opportunity to purchase a beautiful property at a cheap price becomes possible.
Yet purchasing the right property is an art in itself, very often not enough thought is given as to what is really wanted, or how practical the property will be a few years down the line. However with this book as your guide you should be well prepared for all the little things which make moving to France so unique.
Personally I love the way that the author has added all those little bits of information which no-one thinks to tell you, like nowhere is open on Sunday, so if you arrive late Saturday night you better have some food with you, for a start, and many more priceless little bits you need to know.
The book, as the title says, is based on buying a property in Brittany, because this is where the author’s experience lies, however, I have to say, living in another part of France, that the information it contains would be useful to anyone considering moving over here.
Reviewed by Susan Keefe

The Lazy Cook (Book 2): Quick And Easy Sweet Treats

by Susie Kelly

51jRTn7XvIL._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-v3-big,TopRight,0,-55_SX324_SY324_PIkin4,BottomRight,1,22_AA346_SH20_OU02_Susie Kelly has always been one of my favourite author’s and so when she wrote her first cook book The Lazy Cook (Book One): Quick And Easy Meatless Meals I could not wait to read it.

Since then I have tried and enjoyed many of the recipes it contains. Therefore, when I saw its sequel The Lazy Cook (Book 2): Quick and Easy Sweet Treats I couldn’t wait to download it.

This book is a must for everyone who loves deserts. I enjoy cooking and am quite happy to slave over a stove for a long time, if necessary to make a special desert, however, I could not believe how many quick and easy deserts there are.

Inside this amazing book you will find pages of recipes, some using only a couple of ingredients and many which can be made a day or so in advance.

The classic Eaton Mess which can be made in moments, light and tempting deserts which can be whipped up in minutes and others like the evil Malakoff which look incredible, but are really quite simple and quick to prepare. Included is also a wonderful ice-cream recipe which has variations to suit any taste. To complete this gem of a book, the author has also included hot deserts, sweets, baking recipes and even some delicious drinks.

I for one am looking forward to experimenting with these tempting recipes at every opportunity I get.

Reviewed by Susan Keefe

Available from Amazon


Bibi & Babu in Peru: Volume 2 (Bibi & Babu Travel Series)

by Bonnie Toews and John Christiansen

51oJ+JQCmcL._SX385_BO1,204,203,200_After Bibi and Babu [Grandma and Grandpa in Swahili] enjoyed their adventures so much in Africa they decided to visit Peru, and I for one am very glad that they did.

What a wonderful book this is. Everyone has heard of the incredible temple of Machu Picchu, the amazing Lake Titicaca, and the enormous geoglyphs which can only be seen via satellite. But how did they come to be there, who made them, and when? Well scientists still have many questions to answer, however, in the meantime Bonnie Toews and John Christiansen, in their unique storytelling way decide to discover as much as they can for themselves. So, in November 2014 they took a plane to Lima and started their adventure.

Their journey of discovery began by visiting the incredible Larco Museum, in Lima, which houses an amazing collection of ceramics, textiles and artefacts, all beautifully displayed. Lucky for us, they took plenty of pictures, because from this visit we are able to see and understand the importance of all the gold and silver body ornaments which were worn by the Inca nobility.

They then visited the former capital of Peru, Cusco and visited its beautiful buildings, and the fortress-temple Saqsaywaman (pronounced Sexy Woman), which was made a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1983. There are some amazing photos of visitors standing next to the enormous stones, which beg the unanswered question as to how did the Inca’s all those years ago managed to get them into place, and know to position them in such a way that they have withstood earthquakes? Are the ancient legends correct, what do you think? You will have to read the book to discover what these legends are. Whilst they were there, they even managed to learn the difference between Llamas and Alpacas.

Then, their travels then took them on the luxurious Perurail Vistadome train to the magical site of Machu Picchu, which rises over 6,000 feet above the Urubamba River. Steeped in history and hidden from the outside world for many years, this wonderfully preserved national monument was a sight to behold.

Their last trip was to Lake Titicaca, its incredible floating islands, and Taquile island. It is even possible to discover in this very interesting book, how the floating islands are made, who lives on them, and the incredible properties of the Totora (Reed) both as homes, boats, souvenirs and as a medicine.

Although aimed at a young audience, I have to say that I loved this book. It is so well written and totally absorbing. Not only does it contain plenty of colourful pictures of this amazing couple’s travels, and the wonderful sites they have seen, it opens up the people, history, life and customs of the wonderful country of Peru.

Reviewed by Susan Keefe

Available from Amazon



In the garden – December

by Gill Pound

November was exceptionally warm and dry but as I write these notes it does seem as though winter has arrived, snowfall in the Pyrenées and the first frost forecast for Caunes-Minervois this week.

However, unless the ground is actually frozen there is still time to plant trees, shrubs and perennials, particularly as the planting season has been somewhat delayed by the very dry autumn.

If you plant trees remember to stake them well so that they aren’t rocked by the Languedoc winds.   During December think about the following tasks:

  • giving your tools a good clean and a wipe with an oily rag before storing them over the winter
  • if you have a lawn clean up the mower and aerate the lawn with a fork.  Over winter is a good time to service the mower, and any other garden machinery you have.  Clear dead leaves off the lawn and any low growing ground cover plants but remember that dead leaves are a resource.  They can be added to a compost heap or they can be compressed into a plastic bag, tucked away in a corner of the garden and forgotten about – in a year or two you’ll have a bag of leafmould – excellent organic material for your garden
  • it’s a good time to manure rose bushes
  • if you haven’t already done so remember to protect any plants (eg bougainvillea during it’s first two winters, plumbago, citrus etc) that are a little tender – mulch the rootstock and have some winter fleece (voile d’hiver) handy so that you can protect foliage when there is frost.  Other tender plants can be brought into a cold greenhouse or veranda for protection.
  • it is a good time also to thin out over crowded branches and to do cutting back generally of  trees and shrubs, much easier to see what you are doing when the plants have lost their leaves
  • check all tree ties and stakes to avoid wind damage over the winter, similarly make sure that climbers and wall shrubs are tied to their supports
  • if you have plants in pots on your patio or terrace make sure that the pot is lifted by standing it on “feet” (old bits of tile or similar) – this enhances drainage and avoids the possibility of waterlogging in the pot which would make the root system more vulnerable to cold
Arbutus unedo

Arbutus unedo

Mild weather in November may mean that many late flowering shrubs and perennials, as well as the autumn colour on deciduous trees and shrubs will still give some interest in the garden into December but this will all disappear as soon as we have some real frost.

But once the leaves have fallen and frost has claimed late flowers then interest in the garden during winter is often from the structure of evergreen shrubs such as the native lentisc (Pistacia lentiscus), myrtle (Myrtus communis), cypresses and many others.  It is worth giving the strawberry

Myrtus communis

Myrtus communis

tree (Arbutus unedo)  a special mention since it has the attractive red fruits as well as the heather like flowers in December.

The photographs accompanying these notes show some of the berry bearing shrubs and trees that give winter interest; Myrtus communis, Melia azedarach, Cottoneaster lacteus and Arbutus unedo.


Cottoneaster lacteus

It is worth thinking about using evergreen plants from your garden to make your own Christmas garlands and wreaths.  Evergreens such as cypress and pine, ivy, holly, myrtle, Viburnum tinus and many others can be used.  A framework can be made using the “sarments” (stems) of grape vines, then weave in a base of conifer material

Melia azedarach

Melia azedarach

before adding softer foliage such as ivy and then less pliable foliage such as holly, viburnum, cotoneaster, myrtle, wild rose hips, Butcher’s Broom (Ruscus aculeatus) etc.

For further information or for gardening queries  contact Gill Pound, 21, Avenue de la Montagne Noire, 11160, Caunes-Minervois.  Tel: 04 68 78 43 81, email

The benefits of a serviced home in a residential community in the Tarn . . .

Interview by Anna Chadwick

Jan Lawson has just bought a 2-bed ‘Corduries’ house at at ‘La Durantie’ for  £333,000 and is looking forward to a move-in date of autumn next year . . .

She sees the on-site management team, on-site shared leisure facilities including pool upkeep a real benefit. There’s also a 20% VAT reduction on the sales price which covers the management costs for the year. 

“I first heard about La Durantie (  in an article in the Financial Times and kept it aside and thought one day I might like to look into that further. In 2014 I saw La Durantie mentioned again, with the reference of Abercrombie & Kent for sales enquiries, and I was really impressed, so I got in contact with the team at La Durantie and found out some more information.”

102029_Corduries_PLOT3_IMG_13_0000_max_620x414“I had been interested in buying a property in France for quite some time. I visited some French property exhibitions and a few of my friends were buying properties in France around this time. I was particularly attracted to the Tarn because there are fewer British expats than other areas such as the Dordogne, and instead much more opportunity to integrate with the locals and experience the real France. Additionally, La Durantie particularly appealed to me as the Country Club is going to draw to a mixture of nationalities, rather than being solely limited to British residents.”

“For me, the thing that sets La Durantie apart from other properties is the onsite facilities and the management team. Knowing that my property would be fully taken care was probably the main attraction for me. Everything is taken care of while you are away by the onsite management and the English speaking staff are on hand to help you during your stay. This provides a safety net and removes the worry of owning a holiday home abroad where you don’t speak the local language.”

“La Durantie appealed to me because you can choose a house that is manageable in size but comes 102029_Corduries_PLOT3_IMG_04_0000_max_620x414with extensive leisure facilities and beautiful large grounds that you wouldn’t normally have access to on a single plot. It has all the things you would enjoy about owning a big house, but without the upkeep.”

“I plan on gradually increasing the time I spend at my holiday home, as my workload gradually winds down. I will start by just spending a few weeks a year there, with the plan to gradually start spending more and more time there as the years go by.”

“I am buying through the leaseback system which requires our home to be included in the rental pool for a set number of weeks per year and entitles me to a 20% VAT reduction on the sales price. This makes the cost of owning a property on a high-end development in France more attractive and good value for money as it covers my management costs for the year.”

“I have happily owned a time share in the Lake District for 13 years now, called Underscar, situated in the grounds of a manor house, and with its very own red squirrel sanctuary on the estate. It is very similar to La Durantie as it also comes with on-site leisure facilities and on-site management. Having been so satisfied with Underscar’s on-site management and leisure facilities, I was immediately attracted to La Durantie.”

“The Tarn was attractive to me because it sits within a dramatic landscape without being extreme. I enjoy visiting the many bastide towns all within striking distance of each other, and exploring the local French markets. I always manage to find something new and interesting when visiting the Tarn. La Durantie’s location was a key factor in my decision making as it offers stunning views of rolling hills and vineyards from your very own home.”

102029_Corduries_PLOT3_IMG_12_0000_max_620x414-1“The leisure facilities at La Durantie really appealed to me as it extends the attraction of the development beyond the summer months. It means that my home is more than just a holiday home, as I have access to everyday activities, such as swimming and making use of the gym. Having leisure facilities onsite is a key attraction for me as you wouldn’t have these facilities on an isolated plot.”

“I am expecting some family to come out and visit. The plan for the onsite guest accommodation at La Durantie really appealed to me as it offers real flexibility of being able to book some extra accommodation for family and friends.”

“Whilst staying at my home at La Durantie, I intend to take advantage of the number of activities on 102029_Corduries_PLOT3_IMG_05_0000_max_620x414offer in the local area. I plan on driving my bikes down so that I can go on cycling trips through the beautiful countryside. I also hope to take a hot air balloon ride over the surrounding countryside, go for leisurely walks on La Durantie’s grounds and nearby countryside, and visit many of the local bastide towns.”

“Build has started on the site and I am excited to see all the plans of the development and the video on the website come to life. I have been really impressed with the quality of everything inside the buildings and the final detail on everything. Everything is finished off to a high standard, and I am excited about owning a property in such a high quality development.”




Sales enquiries:

Abercrombie & Kent – Web: Tel: +44 (0) 20 3667 7016.

EU referendum: What will the outcome mean for you?

. . . an invitation from the BBC

_83165088_eu-unionflagsBritish Prime Minister David Cameron is to hold a referendum on the UK’s membership of the European Union.

Mr Cameron has said he is determined to deliver reform of the EU for the British people so they get a proper choice in a referendum on whether to leave it.

The referendum is expected to take place before the end of 2017.

Ahead of it, Mr Cameron is looking to renegotiate the terms of Britain’s EU membership.


Are you an EU citizen currently living in the UK? Or are you a UK citizen currently living in an EU country?

What would the outcome of the referendum mean for you?

If you are happy to speak with a BBC journalist regarding the potential impact of the referendum on you and your family you can email us at

You can also contact us on WhatsApp number +44 (0)7525 900971




New EU Succession Rules now in force

by David Anderson

The new EU rules for Wills has come into force in France.

This allows you to choose English law to apply to your Will in France if you are a UK national or a UK resident. This means that you can have an English Will which contains a specific provision for English law to apply to your estate in France. The EU rules go further than applying English law and include the administration of your estate. This can cause some additional complications. This is a good time to review your Will if you own a property in France or are French resident.

148 Sykes Anderson Property Dec15

French Property – Sting in the tail with French “bargains”

by David Anderson

We advise particular caution when French properties appear to be “bargains” as there is usually something concealed by the sellers which has put local buyers off.

This is normally difficult to ascertain at the outset and the golden rule is not to sign anything when pressured by an estate agent or the seller to commit yourself early on. It is essential to carry out thorough enquiries to ensure you are not landed with a property you will not be able to sell on for many years.

We have seen a number of cases involving higher value properties with development planned near to them which will affect the character of the area and the standing of the house. This could be a single house next door which is about to get permission to be demolished and a much larger house built, to large scale medium density development on green field sites immediately bordering the property to be purchased. In most cases the existing owners know of the planned development and are keen to sell before official planning permission is given.

We ask very specific enquiries of the sellers and agents and Mairie and if there is any sign of evasive answers we will take matters further. We only look after you in France and are not in any one else’s pocket so if there is anything wrong with what you are buying we will tell you both straight and straight away.

148 Sykes Anderson Property Dec15

French Tax – UK Tax Treatment of SCIs

by Graeme Perry

UK based individuals have often structured their French property purchases via simple French companies known as Sociétés Civiles Immobilières (“SCIs”).

The main reason behind this has been to fall outside the scope of French succession laws.

Although these structures are popular they can carry an unexpected tax downside as the French authorities look through the SCI for tax purposes but the UK tax authorities do not. This has the potential to create a double tax burden for UK residents.

A recent tax judgement relating to the UK treatment of a US LLC had given some hope to practitioners that HMRC may change its stance on this point which would greatly simplify the position of these individuals. This is because LLCs are in a similar position in that they are treated as transparent in the US but not so in the UK, creating potential double taxation. However, HMRC has been quick to state that the judgement in question was fact-driven meaning that their stated practice on LLCs will be maintained. Presumably this will also apply to their approach on SCIs.

Those individuals who do own via an SCI should seek advice as to how the double tax charge can be avoided.


What to put into the wine lovers Christmas stocking

Ian Blackshaw makes some suggestions

With Christmas on the horizon, the annual question of what to give family and friends raises its frenetic head! For those living in France and enjoying French wines – and who doesn’t – here are a few suggestions for stocking fillers for wine lovers. They will not break the bank and make useful and acceptable gifts.

wine-aerating-pour-spoutTo start with, how about a wine pourer cork? Once the bottle has been opened and the wine allowed to breath, especially a red, the pourer replaces the cork in the neck of the bottle and permits the wine to be poured elegantly and without spillage; even though, without such an aid, you have probably already mastered the twist of the bottle technique to end the serving without spilling a precious drop!

And talking of stoppers, what about a stopper to preserve the unconsumed wine for later drinking. There are many fun ones around and, as long as they are air tight, they work! Although I have to say that I prefer not to drink left over wine, if I can help it. Otherwise, I use such wine for cooking! Which reminds me of the greetings card that has the illustration and the caption to go with it: ‘I often cook with wine and sometimes I add it to the food!’ The sort of remark you would expect from the late and great bon viveur and talented chef Keith Floyd.

How about combining the saver and the pourer as illustrated for, say, Champagne?Vacu-Vin-Champagn-Stopper-Saver

The manufacturers claim that this ‘vacu-vin’ product preserves the bubbles in the Champagne and thus the quality of the wine for later drinking!

Also, a new cork screw might be just what someone needs. There are some simple traditional ones around and also some more sophisticated ones that will cost you an arm and a leg! For example, my younger son bought me a super duper one, complete with a built-in foil cutter, for a significant Birthday and Christmas present – my Birthday is one week before Christmas! – which cost him £150!

Here are a just a few cork screw to choose from:

A basic corkscrew

A basic corkscrew


A sommelier corkscrew with the penknife enclosed!

A sommelier corkscrew with the penknife enclosed!

An expensive titanium corkscrew which looks like an instrument of torture!

A wing corkscrew – very effective, but the wings snap easily through use!

A wing corkscrew – very effective, but the wings snap easily through use!

And talking of foil cutters, to remove the capsule covering the cork neatly, sommeliers have the knack of doing this with just a penknife (see the above example). Foil cutters, for the less practical, always make useful presents and are not expensive either.

Again, how about a wine thermometer collar, to ensure that your whites and reds are served at optimum temperatures? A neat device that fits snugly round the neck of the bottle.

Also, what about a taste vin? A what you may ask? A useful device for tasting the wine, particularly red wine from the Burgundy region, where this item was created, before serving. This will impress your friends, especially tastevinone that comes (as illustrated) with a chain that you can wear round your neck!

Again, how about a smart ‘silver’ wine bottle coaster, like the one illustrated?original_silver_wine_coaster


glass_burgundyAnd what about a set of glasses, especially to replace ones that have inevitably been depleted by breakages?

For example, a set of large burgundy glasses, each of which can hold a bottle of wine (75 cl)! Something definitely to get your nose into to appreciate fully the bouquet!

Again, a modern wine bottle holder in stainless steel, like the one illustrated below, would make a nice gift and would not break the bank either!

Wine-Bottle-Holder-WTS0519A-How about a wine aerator? I was given one by some South African friends, who are also into their wine. I must confess that I had never heard of such a gadget, apparently all the rage in South Africa, amongst, of course, the discerning wine connoisseurs. On returning, I could not wait to try it out and see whether the claims of its manufacturer, that it quickly allows the wine, especially reds, to breathe and the result is a “perfect glass of wine”, were true.

I must say that, being used to pouring wine into a glass and giving the wine a good swirl in the glass to oxygenate it, I was somewhat skeptical about the claims made for this product. In particular, would it add too much oxygen to the wine and distort it? But, I was not disappointed and pleased with the result. In fact, pouring the wine through the wine aerator and into the glass, in a matter of seconds, the wine was beautifully aerated, giving forth its bouquet and fine aromas and creating a smoother finish.

vinturi-red-wine-aerator-travelMy wine aerator was made in China, the brain child of Master Zen Lhu, and the manufacturers – ‘vinturator’ – state – quite poetically – that “as the sun is to the earth, the rain is to the valley, the soil is to the vine, our wine aerator will be to your next glass of wine”.

I would add that the wine aerator also works well with white wines, which also – but, perhaps to a lesser extent than red wines – need to breathe to release their aromas and complex flavours.

Apparently, the wine aerator incorporates the Seventeenth Century Swiss Physicist Daniel Bernoulli’s formula of motion – not being into fluid dynamics, I take that, of course, as read! The product, incidentally, comes with a useful drip stand.

Finally, what about a wine cooler bucket? A fancy one with all the recommended serving temperatures emblazoned on its outside. With such an item, you will have no excuse for serving a white too chilled, easily done, or a red above room temperature! In the latter case, it is probably better to err on the cooler side, which, in any case, reflects the room temperature of earlier years in French houses prior to central heating.

A personalised wine bucket, leave your mark and be remembered for ever . . .

A personalised wine bucket, leave your mark and be remembered for ever . . .

All these items can be found in wine and other shops in your region. Have fun searching for them and running them to earth, if you have the time, and are not, like me buying Christmas presents at the last minute on Christmas Eve!

Just a few ideas. Not only for the wine connoisseur but also, without being patronising, to enhance the experience of the average wine lover and drinker, and also to suit every pocket.

Bonne santé et bon Noel!

Ian Blackshaw













London TV production company who is looking for British expats

I am a producer at Crackit Productions, an independent television production company based in the UK.  We make factual television programmes and documentaries for all of the major UK broadcasters.  I am currently researching a potential new documentary series which would follow British people who live abroad.  We’re in the very early stages of developing the idea at the moment and I am hoping to speak to some British expats next week who can share their experiences with me to help me with my research.
I am looking for people who live abroad and receive certain benefits, either from the UK or from their new country of residence.  For example, perhaps someone who receives a health or disability related benefit and who has also chosen to make the most of the improved health and quality of life that living in warmer climates can bring.

Or someone who receives a UK pension and has chosen to move abroad to better enjoy their retirement in the sunshine.

It would just be a short chat on the telephone at this stage, ideally as soon as possible.  If anyone who might be interested in sharing their experiences with me could please contact me at or on +44 (0)203 761 4567 in the first instance I can arrange a time to call them for a chat.
If you have any questions at all then please don’t hesitate to let me know.
Thank you so much for your time,
Best wishes

Sarah Faulds

Development Producer, Crackit Productions


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