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September 2014
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September’s cheese is Saint-Nectaire

A_Cheese_Sept14Hermine is holding ‘le petit rond’ of Saint-Nectaire. Her strange position in held in the Chez Felix restaurant in the 17th.
Saint-Nectaire is an Auvergne cheese, made from cow’s milk. It could be believed that it tastes of grass and nuts, but not being a grass-eater I can’t vouch for that bit.
The Auvergne is characterised by the volcanic craters that appear on advertisements for French water !
Puy-de-Dôme, the heart of the Auvergne, is one of the original 83 departments created during the French Revolution in 1790. It was created from the former province of Languedoc. Originally, the department was to be called Mont-d’Or, but this was changed to Puy-de-Dôme following the intervention of a local deputy, because of his concern that the name ‘ Golden Mountain’ originally chosen risked attracting excessive unwelcome attention from the tax authorities – which makes you wonder why The Gold Coast never changed its name !
Saint-Nectaire gets its name from a linguistic corruption of ‘Marshal of Senneterre’ who served it at the table of Louis XIV. Amazing that so many French cheeses had royal connections. The French nobility must have had little to except promote cheese production and wait for their tumbril.
Saint-Nectair is brilliant as a cooking cheese, and the French think so as well:
Crème brûlée aux marrons et Saint-Nectaire
Filet de bœuf en portefeuille de Saint Nectaire, croquette de polente et de Saint Nectaire aux épices
Rouleau de boudin noir et Saint Nectaire sur son lit de purée d’oignons, vinaigrette de betteraves rouges
Saumon au Saint-Nectaire
Pastilla de volaille et cèpes au Saint-Nectaire
Feuilleté au Saint-Nectaire
Champignauvergne au Saint-Nectaire
Filets de volaille au Saint-Nectaire
Gratinée au Saint-Nectaire

1st August is Trout day

You strange, astonished-looking, angle-faced,
Dreary-mouthed, gaping wretches of the sea,
Gulping salt-water everlastingly,
Cold-blooded, though with red your blood be graced,
And mute, though dwellers in the roaring waste;
And you, all shapes beside, that fishy be,–
Some round, some flat, some long, all devilry,
Legless, unloving, infamously chaste:–

O scaly, slippery, wet, swift, staring wights,
What is’t ye do? What life lead? eh, dull goggles?
How do ye vary your vile days and nights?
How pass your Sundays? Are ye still but joggles
In ceaseless wash? Still nought but gapes, and bites,
And drinks, and stares, diversified with boggles?

A_Opener_Sept14Trout were always available for rich and poor.

The nobility and the clergy were served trout from the fish ponds, the poor tickled them in the streams.

Today we fish in the streams and rivers – Manno à Trout0 – or we but in the local markets from tanks . . . and then we cook the catch of the day: Wasabi Trout, Pan fried whole trout, Beer battered trout, Oven roasted with lemon dill, Grilled, Lemon trout, Foil barbecued, Pecan-crusted, Blackened trout, Trout Armandine, Rainbow trout with yoghurt sauce, Krazy garlic trout, Steelhead trout bake with Dijon mustard, Wasabi trout, Trout with lime and thyme, Coaled and tinned trout, Trout with fiddlehead ferns, Baked trout fillets, Butternut squash and trout bake with fresh salsa, Campfire trout, Mediterranean style trout, Mountain trout, Fresh baked rainbow trout, Bacon trout, Spicy grilled trout, Applewood smoked bacon mashed stuffed trout.

Trout, trout, trout, trout . . . Glorious Trout.

In the Garden – September

We normally are waiting for September to bring us some much needed rains but, at the time of writing, we have had an unusually wet July and a fairly wet start to August. 

Nonetheless, for the vast majority of shrubs and perennials the autumn is the best time to plant – there is warmth and moisture in the soil and the plant starts to develop roots before the cold of winter and in mild winters may keep growing during the winter thus producing a more established plant – better able to withstand dry winds and heat  next summer.  In general the autumn planting season can start once we have had September rain and can extend until early December.  Remember that when planting it is a good idea to dig a hole twice as deep and twice as wide as the pot, take this soil out and mix some of it with terreau de plantation or compost (organic material) and clean sand or gravel, use this mixture to give your plant a better start in life!  Before planting fill the planting hole with water and allow it to drain away several times, this will ensue that there is moisture at depth for the roots to seek out.  Whenever possible plant small plants rather than large specimens, they are less susceptible to wind rock, will establish faster and long term will result in healthier plants.

Garden_4If you haven’t yet done so now is the time to buy spring flowering bulbs from garden centres (jardineries) or by mail order, there are many online sources.  I have found that anemones (De Caen hybrids and Anemone blanda), native Gladiolus communis and Scilla peruviana (which is a Med native despite the name) do well.  Botanical or species  tulips such as Tulipa greigii, kaufmaniana, saxatilis & fosteriana are particularly successful here as well as other Med natives such as grape hyacinths and Star of Bethlehem.   When buying bulbs make sure that what’s in the packet are firm, healthy looking bulbs with no signs of premature sprouting.

During September think also about the following tasks:

*continue to deadhead perennials to prolong the autumn show of flower

*take cuttings of tender perennials such as geraniums (Pelargoniums strictly speaking)

 *prune late summer flowering shrubs after flowering

*trim evergreen hedges

*clip back lavenders after flowering. Use hand shears and clip back to just above the old flowering stem, don’t cut back into old wood as the plant may not reshoot.

Many Mediterranean native plants flower earlier in the year but there are many species of Origanum that flower through the summer into September.  The popular cooking herb, oregano, is Origanum vulgare but many species are very ornamental.  For example; Origanum dictamnus has woolly, silvery leaves with pink flowers & purple bracts, another good ornamental is Origanum Kent Beauty with beautiful, large pink bracts around mauve flowers.  There are many forms of Origanum laevigatum which are most attractive too; Herrenhausen is a deep purple form and Nymphenbug is a lovely compact cultivar.  And, for fans of Middle Eastern cooking, don’t forget the white flowered Origanum syriacum which is the main constituent of the zatar spice mix.  And, if you want more convincing to try some oreganos, remember that they are all extremely attractive to bees and butterflies.


At La Petite Pépinière this autumn we are offering our popular two day gardening course: 

An Introduction to Gardening in Summer Dry Climates:

Tuesday 14th (11am – 1, 2 – 5pm) and Wednesday 15thOctober  2014 (10am – 12.30, 1.30 – 4pm)  2011

A two day course which is aimed at those relatively new to gardening in the Languedoc climate, our intention is to provide information and promote discussion in a relaxed and informal atmosphere which will help those interested in creating interesting, easy to maintain and colourful ornamental gardens in our summer dry climate.  We will consider the nature of the local climate, the physical problems associated with gardening here (heat, drought, cold, wind, soil) and how to cope with them; recognising plants which are suited to this climate; buying plants; planting techniques and maintenance.  We shall also look at design basics and planting schemes, succession – planting for year round interest and plants for particular situations.  Appropriate resources and useful French/English vocabulary will also be included as well as a guided tour of the garden here to illustrate points made.  There will be plenty of opportunity for discussion of issues raised by course participants.

The timing of the course is designed to help anyone who wishes to come from further afield and would like to stay locally on Tuesday night, if you would like recommendations for accommodation do ask.

Course fee: 90 euros, including teas & coffees.  Please bring a packed lunch.For more information contact Gill on 04 68 78 43 81 or email 

La Petite Pépinière de Caunes (shrubs and perennials, ornamental grasses, unusual plants and plants for dry climates, garden advice and consultation), 21, Avenue de la Montagne Noire, 11160, Caunes-Minervois.



Open March to November on the second weekend of the month, thus Friday Saturday & Sunday (10h to 18h all three days) the 12th, 13th & 14th September, the 10th, 11th & 12th October and the 7th, 8th & 9th November. We are also always open by appointment – just phone or email to fix another time.


Recommended reading for September


A Visitor’s Guide to Paris

by Tim Benson

I think that this is a very useful compact guide which would be invaluable if you were planning a trip to Paris. Not only does it provide excellent information regarding the various way to get there, it also gives a lot of information, and invaluable tips on how to do so once you are there.
Written as an advisory guide, the author has listed the 20 arrondissements, or districts, of Paris, with information as to what you can find in them. If you are unsure where to start, he has also suggested the best places to visit in the city and routes for each day, which will help you to make the most of your visit.
There are even general tips which include the emergency services numbers and a chapter on common French expressions.
Basically, this is a very useful and informative guide which would be an asset when visiting this beautiful city.
Reviewed by Susan Keefe

Chateau de Chenonceau: Simple Guide

by Miroslav Kucera

The Chateau de Chenonceau in the Loire Valley, is truly beautiful. I have visited it on various occasions and live within driving distance of it, so I was interested to read this guide.

I found this book very useful, packed with information, vivid descriptions of the magnificent rooms and practical advice about visiting this wonderful chateau. Once there, as it says in the book there are excellent audio guides in many languages, however I feel this book would work well too, if desired.

An added bonus, for me, is the excellent attention to the history of this amazing place, the realisation that it had been owned by the ‘common people’ as well as royalty was news to me. The only thing which spoilt this book for me was the lack of photo’s, a book about a chateau like this, with such beautifully constructed buildings and gardens deserves, in my opinion, photos.

If you are considering giving this beautiful chateau a visit I highly recommend this book.

Reviewed by Susan Keefe


When The Drum Major Died

by Anjuelle Floyd

When I started reading this book, the first thoughts which came into my mind were that, it’s amazing how ignorant one can be, about events which happened in your own lifetime. Being a British child at the time these events were taking place, somehow they slipped into a hole between the history I was taught at school, from ancient up to and including WWII, and the recent history which I remember as an adult.

The main character in the story Florina, is a young colored woman who has married Dr Richmond Austin, and moved to his home town Poinsettia, in the South of America. Her new in-laws are very welcoming and her new home is to be his grandparent’s house. However, she very quickly discovers that her new neighbour Agnes, who is married to the other colored doctor in the town, Macon, used to go out with Richmond, and Florina fears that the attraction is still there. However, she has her own secret, one not even her parents know… A secret which lies buried in her heart and which she can only hint at in her very poignant poetry.

This incredibly absorbing story is set at a very turbulent time for the colored people of America. The Civil Rights movement was strong, and was led by the Baptist minister and activist Martin Luther King Jr., a man who worked tirelessly for, and who played such a strong part in the ending of the legal segregation of the African-American people.

Also all the time, in the background, and twisted inextricably throughout the plot of this story is the Vietnam War which was taking thousands of lives…

However, another element of this story, which was very interesting to me, is that I never realised that there was such color snobbery within the families of colored folk, causing so much tension, prejudices, terrible rifts, and great sadness. This was so evident in this book, where at one end of the spectrum there was immense color pride and at the other the seemingly desperate need to appear white.

This book is amazing, I thoroughly enjoyed reading it. For me, it has all the essential ingredients for a good story excitement, intrigue, love triangles, lies, deceit, confessions, betrayal I could go on. However, more importantly for me, it gives a fascinating fly on the wall account of what it was really like as a colored person to live in those times, something I would never be able to experience otherwise.

Reviewed by Susan Keefe


Blue Hydrangeas: an Alzheimer’s love story

by Marianne Sciucco

Having spent a lifetime together, Sara and Jack, who run a successful bed-and-breakfast called Blue Hydrangeas refuse to acknowledge there may be a problem with Sara, until the time comes when they are forced to face the truth. When she is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, they are in denial, shocked, yet resolute, they have faced life together united for so long, that they are determined to continue to do so for as long as they can.

However, time takes its toll and after nine years, Jack, is not a well man himself and is finding himself under pressure from family and the medical staff to put Sara in a home, but can he?

This is a poignant love story, beautifully written. If you have ever nursed or known anyone with Alzheimer’s or Dementia this story will bring the memories flooding back. The effects on the loved ones, and family of caring for the sufferers is hard, both physically, and mentally, as they watch their loved ones memories go.

This is not a soppy romance, but rather, a true celebration of the love between two people. I have no doubt that it will make you smile, it will undoubtedly make you cry, but, this is an absolutely amazing story and I highly recommend it.

Reviewed by Susan Keefe


How to Write a Novel in 90 Days

by Conrad Jones

This book is written by a successful and prolific author who has used his experiences in an invaluable way, to produce a very good guide for authors.

Whether you do write your book in 90 days or not, this book offers sound information and guidelines on many points.

The author started his career having to juggle a ‘day’ job with his writing, and so he fully understands the pressures writers are put under both personally, by others, and situations around them.

As well as the expected advice on the importance of doing your homework, building characters, word counts and targets, the book is full of good ideas to improve your writing. The author has included some really good examples of how, by making changes to your writing style, you can make the same story scene much more interesting, and how to increase the sales and marketing opportunities by adding ‘hooks,’ which link the book to specific places etc.

His repetition of the importance of rewriting may sound a bit daunting, however, anyone who has written a book knows that this becomes second nature after a while.

No-one can guarantee that you write a best seller, the original ideas have to come from you, however, the amount of advice given in this book is phenomenal, and it is given in a no nonsense style.

Reviewed by Susan Keefe




Finding, Buying & Improving a Period House – No.4

MAKING YOUR PLANS this is an exciting phase, but don’t let your heart rule your head

Where to start?

So much to do and so many possibilities, but the important first step is to ensure that the structure is safe, weather proof and will not deteriorate. If you have received a condition report from a surveyor, you should have been given a prioritised list of essential repairs.

Top rated will be to keep out the enemy –water, even if re-modelling the roof may be part of your plans for the future, should you for example plan an attic conversion don’t hesitate to do patch repairs immediately. They will protect what is there and give time for the wet parts to dry out naturally. Drying out is best done by ventilation and not by introducing heat. A sudden change of temperature can result in unwelcome problems such as cracking, whereas good ventilation will allow it to happen gradually.

Joint first will be to make all parts of the structure and services safe for occupation. Again patching may be appropriate if you plan a major scheme or are undecided on your options for improvement. A patched repair may not look attractive, but better safe than sorry and you will not have wasted money on beautifying something temporary. Looking at it will also concentrate the mind on the job in hand rather than the joys of just being there

The property may have cracks in the structure, they may still be widening and/or lengthening or movement may have ceased. The surveyor may have recommended monitoring the cracks to be able to know for certain. Monitoring should start as soon as possible and may involve fixing “tell tales” to the cracks as well as keeping a photographic and measurement record. It is also useful to keep a meteorological record so that it can be considered alongside any changes in movement.

Marshal-Sept14This tell tale from Avonguard will record horizontal and vertical movement, there has been a shift to the right of 1 mm.

Don’t rush into finalising restoration and/or improvement plans.

The best advice is to do nothing for a year until you have owned and occupied the property through the four seasons. Your initial ideas can change drastically when you have experienced the highs and lows of temperature and rainfall, discovered the foot fall routes that are most frequently used when living there and appreciated which rooms are used the most and offer shade or warmth in different times of the day and year.

You may find that you dry washing using a tumble drier or in the attics rather than outside so a laundry on the first floor may be better than one off the kitchen, you usually eat outside and rarely in the dining room, the kitchen would be better on the opposite side of the house, you need more/less storage in a different location, a second entrance lobby to dry the dog and discard wet clothes & muddy shoes would keep the house cleaner and  a separate WC may be more useful than one in a bathroom; the latter would certainly be more attractive to a future French owner.

Enjoy your first year but use the time wisely.

When you have checked out the local bars, restaurants, wineries and châteaux spend as much time as possible on other research.

Seek out from libraries and shops at home and in France books on the subject, you may see or hear of one that appears useful and relative but is out of print, you will have the time to go on the bookshop mailing list and be advised when a copy comes into stock.

Join an organisation such as SPAB, which can provide a wealth of information and advice on restoration and preservation techniques.  They used to provide courses for what they termed “British Bodgers” wanting to restore French properties, most of the techniques are as relevant in France as in the UK.

Get out of the car and walk around the locality, you will take in much more of the “vernacular” architecture and remember to look up. You will probably see examples of a restoration that you admire, drum up the courage to knock on the door and ask the owners about their project. Most people, as I hope you will be, are proud of their achievement and will be pleased to share their experience. They will also be a good source of recommendations for tradespersons, architects, project managers and suppliers including salvage yards.  As with the bookshops, visit architectural salvage yards and if there is something you particular need, tell them and they will let you know when it comes into stock.

JOHN MARSHALL – Chartered Valuation Surveyor § Building Pathologist

This article was originally published in French Property News.

Summer holiday – how about making it last forever?

It’s that time of the year when many people are heading away on their summer holidays.

As such breaks away usually involve three stages; the anticipation in the build-up before you go, the sheer enjoyment of being there, and the disappointment but inevitability of having to leave a week or two later. Just imagine if you didn’t have to go home. Imagine if you moved abroad to start a whole new adventure.

shutterstock_208262677OK, it’s true – if you were to start a new life abroad, it’s not as if you’ll feel like you’re on holiday all the time. Unless you’re moving there to retire, you’ll have to find a job. If you’ve got children, you’ll have to consider education. But what you will benefit from is the way of life, the culture and the cuisine.

If you’re moving from the UK, you’ll also benefit from a strong pound, which means your money will go further, and you could be able to afford a more expensive new home as a result.

It’s also not as if the rate of house price rises in Europe should get in the way of you making the move either. According to the latest House Price Index from Eurostat, the statistical office of the EU, Prices were down by 0.3% in quarter one of 2014 compared to the first quarter of 2013. In the same period, house prices went up by 1% in the European Union in the same period.

Some of the biggest annual falls in house prices have come in Croatia (down 9.7%), (down 6.6%) and Cyprus (down 5.7%) – figures that must sound like music to the ears of British buyers who have seen house prices rocket back home (up 6.4% year-on year, and higher still in London). However, it’s not cheaper everywhere in Europe, and if you’re on the lookout for a bargain, just be aware that prices aren’t down across the board. House prices in Estonia are up 17.5% year-on-year and Latvia has seen a 10.4% rise.

There appears to be more interest around moving abroad too, with the overseas mortgage specialist Conti reporting an increase in the number of enquiries it received about property abroad. They reported that enquiries were up 58% in the first half of this year compared with the first half of last year.

The lower property prices in some European countries and more affordable rates of borrowing are tempting some buyers, and strength of sterling means that their money goes further.

At the time of writing the GBPEUR (pounds to sterling) exchange rate is just below 1.26, with £250,000 getting you nearly €315,000. Rewind to Marchshutterstock_89635444 and the exchange rate was as low as 1.1932, and that same amount would have got you just €298,300. That means that in the space of just five months, you’ll now get around €17,000 based purely on the exchange rates. It just shows you what a difference the currency markets can make, and how important it is to get the best possible exchange rate.

One way of being sure of what you’re going to pay, and not getting any nasty surprises, is by using a currency exchange specialist to fix an exchange rate in advance. So if you’re buying a property in the Eurozone, you could fix an exchange rate now while the going’s good and you’ll know exactly what you’ll pay when it’s time for the transfer to be made.

With a strong pound and tempting looking house prices on the continent, maybe this year you’ll make your summer holiday last a bit longer – maybe forever…

Written by Simon Hilton, senior foreign exchange consultant at World First


World First specialises in assisting private and corporate clients with foreign exchange transactions. World First transacted circa £6billion for their clients in 2013 and have a 3A1 credit rating from Dun & Bradstreet – the highest possible rating for a company their size. As well as a best-in-class online platform, regular transfer service and tailored hedging solutions designed to protect you from adverse market movements, they also offer excellent customer service. Winner of the Client Focus Award at the 2012 National Business Awards and the Client Focus Award at the 2014 European Business Awards, each customer gets a dedicated consultant and all phone calls are answered within three rings.


Click here for more information or call 0207 801 9080 to open a free, no-obligation account in just a few minutes.

Euro continues on its rocky road, encouraging overseas buyers to take advantage

Summer is always seen as something of a quiet time in business, with workplaces emptied of its staff for holidays and fewer people to do business with.

Maybe you’ve taken the opportunity to have a well-deserved week or two off yourself. One thing that doesn’t rest is the currency markets, which have been whirring, as ever, at every second of every day.

And at the risk of sounding like a broken record, sterling is still performing strongly, as it has done all year long, a position which has been shutterstock_147244238strengthened by the likes of data that has seen the UK economy finally creep above its 2008 GDP peak. Q2 GDP came in at 0.8%, matching Q1’s growth rate and backing up survey data from all sectors of the UK economy that the recovery is engendered, sustainable and flourishing. However, moving into Q3, we are expecting an eventual slowing of the growth seen in the past 12 months and for sterling to slip from its current highs, especially against the US dollar. On that note, GBPUSD has recently moved from 1.71 at the start of July to 1.68 at the time of writing. Despite that slight dip, sterling is still up year on year; GBPUSD was below 1.52 last August, so while £200,000 was worth $304,000 back then, it’s now worth around $32,000 more. Still, we’ll keep an eye on sterling for any further dips. Against the euro the pound has remained consistently strong.

As hinted upon just now, the dollar has started to fight back, not least because of a bumper payrolls number. 288,000 jobs were created in June, up from a revised 224,000 in May. April’s initial reading has leapt from 192,000 as an initial figure to being revised to 304,000. The average job growth in the US through the past 3 months therefore is 272,000 – a huge number for an economy that supposedly shrank by an annualised rate of the 2.1% in the first 3 months of the year. We’ve seen how the dollar has clawed back some of the ground it lost to the pound, and it’s also up versus the euro. USDEUR is – at the time of writing – above 0.7450, when it was down below 0.7350 at the start of the month and languishing at close to 0.72 at the start of May. The difference between then and now is equivalent to €5,000 on a $200,000 transfer.

The slow decline of the European single currency continued in July against many major economies. Unfortunately for the euro, any decent European data was easily outweighed by poor numbers or horrific geopolitical events. For example the manufacturing and services sector surveys rose higher in July and will give hope to those who believe that the European economy is not in as dire a state as previously thought.  However, as we stand at the moment, and thanks to a poor European inflation number once again in July, we can only see further slips in the value of the single currency.

The Australian dollar continues to perform strongly, with AUDEUR above 0.69, compared to sub-0.65 back in March – that’s a difference of over €8,000 on an AU$ 200,000 transfer. AUD remains steady against the pound.

Like many of the major world economies, the Canadian dollar is also doing well against the euro, with CADEUR up from close to 0.64 in March to 0.66 in May to above 0.68 now. When making a CAD 200,000 transfer, you’ll now get €136,000 compared to €128,000 in March. After gradual improvements against USD throughout the year, CAD has tumbled in the last two months.

The big takeaway here for us is a continued rocky spell for the euro, which is weak compared to a number of major currencies, so for those making an overseas payment in the Eurozone – maybe you’re looking to buy a new home – you may be able to get more for your money.

Written by Simon Hilton, senior foreign exchange consultant at World First

FINANCIAL_344_World_First_May14World First specialises in assisting private and corporate clients with foreign exchange transactions. World First transacted circa £6billion for their clients in 2013 and have a 3A1 credit rating from Dun & Bradstreet – the highest possible rating for a company their size. As well as a best-in-class online platform, regular transfer service and tailored hedging solutions designed to protect you from adverse market movements, they also offer excellent customer service. Winner of the Client Focus Award at the 2012 National Business Awards and the Client Focus Award at the 2014 European Business Awards, each customer gets a dedicated consultant and all phone calls are answered within three rings.

Click here for more information or call 0207 801 9080 to open a free, no-obligation account in just a few minutes.

Addendum dated 23 July 2014

Whilst unemployment figures released the other day were great at 6.4%. Wages were down .2%. What this means is that whilst the unemployment rate is great it does point to those added jobs being the lower wage entrants (£12-15,000pa) ie an increase in youth employment.

A more holistic view of the economy is needed and wages has become a focus now for the BOE. Participation rates are up which is again a good indication of the number of people actually looking for jobs. We have also seen a drop in the likelihood that the interest rate will rise prior to Q1 2015.

All this helps explain the recent weakness and sentiment towards the Pound. UK GDP is up tomorrow and all eyes will be on this before the weekend is upon us.

Living in France may not be as cheap as you would think, as prices rise in key expat destinations

The Figures

Using their latest research, the Overseas Guides Company has put together a detailed comparison index, outlining the difference between grocery shopping in the UK and our most popular destinations. As you can see, whilst prices in the UK are still cheaper for some essential grocery items such as bananas or dog food, on the whole, you will get much more for your money elsewhere.

The 2014 Overseas Living Price Index is at the foot of this article

Turkey tops the poll as best value overall

Turkey consistently ranks as one of the cheapest countries within which to live, with low utility costs and low prices for everyday items compared to the rest of the world – particularly bread, milk and washing powder. Public transport costs are also lower in Turkey.

Rising costs in France

The rising costs of utility bills in France has pushed up the day-to-day living costs in the country – now slightly ahead of the UK, thanks to high electricity and gas prices. Despite this, a food shop will generally cost you less in France, although you will pay slightly higher prices for some basic items, such as milk and pasta.

Leisure time

Portugal comes out of our survey as the cheapest country to eat out in.  Beer is also priced the cheapest here, along with Italy. Wine, on the other hand, is cheapest in Italy and Cyprus.

Getting out and about

The cost of petrol is generally cheaper throughout most of Europe, although petrol prices in Italy can be high. Diesel was found to be cheaper than petrol in every country surveyed, aside from the UK.

Beyond Europe

Your weekly shop is likely to cost you more if you live in Canada and New Zealand – prices here are higher even than in the UK, although in New Zealand this is countered by relatively low utility bills, including free water rates. Perhaps unsurprisingly, Canada and the US also have the most expensive bar costs for alcohol – even more so than in the UK!

In contrast, getting around by car is much cheaper in Canada than in the US or the UK, while public transport costs are highest in Canada and New Zealand.

It is evident that the costs of living can vary widely in each country, depending on your needs, and need to be taken into consideration when considering a move abroad.

Angelos Koutsoudes, Head of the Overseas Guides Company, points out: “Our research emphasises how important it is to have a clear idea of costs in your new country before moving there, so you know you can easily afford day-to-day living costs, whatever your financial situation.”

* Please note: all costs are correct as of 9th May 2014.

Screen Shot 2014-08-12 at 15.01.04

Let’s live in La Rochelle . . . and buy a boat !

Strategically placed on France’s Atlantic Coast, La Rochelle was founded almost a thousand years ago. It has beautifully maintained its past, making it one of the most picturesque and historically rich cities on the Atlantic coast.

shutterstock_151984181Desirable property in central La Rochelle can be scarce, however Leggett are now marketing three brand new architecturally-designed developments set close to the city centre which, due to their location and specification, are expected to prove popular.

Leggett area co-ordinator, Tony Murless, says these developments are among the very best currently on the market in the Charente Maritime.

“Each has been created by well-reputed property developers and is being built to high property specifications – ensuring the best of both worlds – a new apartment with all the conveniences of modern day living close to the magnificent architecture of the old city which makes La Rochelle such a fascinating place both to live and visit.”

Architecturally designed, ‘Le Courlis’ provides a choice of of generously sized apartments at relatively modest prices. A total of just eight apartments in 344279_num904343_600x600this three-storeyed small development, provide an ideal pied a terre within 500 metres of the centre of La Rochelle close to ‘La Porte Royale – and just minutes’ walk to the old town and thriving markets. The residence itself is equipped with a lift, garaging (additional storage is available in the basement), energy control equipment and secure access through video intercom.

The apartments benefit from high quality fixtures and fittings, standard to all properties created by this developer, and range in price from € 174,900 for a 41.75 m² one bedroom apartment to € 516,220 for the largest 126 m² apartment with three bedrooms and a 59 m² terrace – each apartment in Le Courlis features either its own terrace or sheltered balcony.

Ground has already been broken, with completion due towards the end of 2015. Only recently introduced to the market, Tony says now is the ideal time to choose the apartment that best suits your needs!

Near the Canal de Rompsay and close to the heart of the old city, a particularly striking residential property ‘Les Berges Saint Louis‘ is under construction by the same architectural and development team.  Set in a conservation area currently undergoing regeneration, these apartments provide a solid investment opportunity for the future.

Demand has been brisk for these expansive apartments with just five of the total of 10 still remaining on the market.  Again set in a low rise development of just three storeys, the remaining apartments range in size from 63 m² for a two bedroomed unit at € 283,270 to the largest four roomed apartment consisting of 84 m² with its own 25 m² terrace for sale at € 350,380. Each has dedicated parking as well as additional storage boxes, lift and all the other mod cons you can expect as standard from these high quality developers.

Here again privacy is a keynote, each apartment having its own generously-sized terrace or balcony not overlooked by neighbours!  Construction is already well underway with completion due in Spring 2015.

The buy-to-let market is well catered for by the third development ‘Residence Port de la Rochelle’ in Tasdon, a sought after area in central La Rochelle. 344279_num904344_600x600

Close to hand are all the necessary amenities for day to day living, just a few minutes from the old port, train station, food shops, banks, cafes and restaurants – these attractively priced apartments provide an opportunity both for living or as a buy to let option, especially with its situation conveniently close to the university centres.

Bright and functional, each of the 34 apartments, spread over two buildings, has large windows with either a balcony or terrace, covered parking and the whole development is being built to the latest thermal regulations.  As well as gas heating, there is lift access to all floors and security monitored access.  The developer and architect have been careful to include green spaces within the centre of this development.

Ideal to let out to staff working at the local universities, these extremely reasonably priced apartments range from 28 m² studios at € 125,000 to the larger 70 m² two bedroom units on the market for €297,000.

Tony Murless says, for French tax residents, buying a new property can provide tax breaks as well as other incentives.

“There is no doubt, La Rochelle is a booming and vital city – its ancient port now has the biggest marina on the West Coast which is an enormous attraction for visitors and residents alike.  In addition this area boasts the second highest number of sunshine hours each year which is a real draw!

“Properties are definitely holding and beginning to increase in value.  Now could be the ideal time to invest in a brand new apartment – and of course each of these properties comes with a standard 10 year building guarantee!”

Tony Murless -

Property Price Index for France – from September we’ll have an LPI

For the first time ever there is to be a close-to-real time property index in France. Set to be launched in September, the LPI (Les Prix de l’Immobilier) index will be fed weekly by new transactions from a variety of different sources.

shutterstock_173168915-2“The French Notaires have had a monopoly on house price data for a long time and when reports are published they are always six months behind. Historical data is always useful but the lack of real-time market information has always been a frustration for non-resident buyers, especially when this type of information is so readily available in countries like the UK. This new index will be extremely helpful when dealing with foreign investors, especially if it’s their first purchase in the country.” Nicholas Leach , Athena Advisors

Designed by Michel Mouillart, Professor of Economics at the University Paris-Ouest and director of the Housing Credit Observatory (CSA) the LPI will use data from sources including Crédit Foncier, Gecina, Sogeprom and the SNPI, the national syndicate for real estate prices.

“One of the biggest factors for overseas buyers is that they’ll now be able to see data for new-build property as well as resale,” adds Leach. “The Notraires data is largely based on resale property so for areas like central Paris where newly built property is extremely rare this new information will be very useful.”

The index will be show data for the whole of France and also by region, city and town.

For further information on French properties and investments please visit or call +44 (0)20 7471 4500.



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