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In the garden – May 2014

by Gill Pound

Overall a warm spring and May will generally bring warm weather, the ground can dry out quickly so do keep an eye on the water needs of plants that you have just planted; in general, and however drought resistant plants are, they will still need watering during the first summer to make sure that they develop a good root system during their first year in the garden.  

When watering it is better to water less often but making sure that water penetrates the soil, you want roots to go deeply rather than developing a surface rooting system.   A deep rooting system means that plants will be less susceptible to wind rock, drought and winter cold whereas the opposite is the case if your plants have shallow root systems.

For many plants it is helpful to create a small depression around the base of the plant to help direct the water to the plant’s roots.  May is often one of the busiest months in the garden as we are still finishing spring planting projects but also trying to keep up with weeding, grass cutting etc  If you do have grass one way of reducing time spent cutting is to develop some of it as perennial meadow – great for wildlife and it will only need cutting once or twice a year.

During May think about the following:

  • if you have a lawn this is a good time to repair any gaps in the lawn and to fertilise the lawn before summer
  • watch out for red lily beetles
  • prune spring flowering shrubs after flowering
  • spring flowering bulbs can be lifted and divided after flowering
  • give shrubs a handful of slow release fertiliser (engrais à liberation lente)
  • as the weather warms up less helpful animal life in the garden gets active – keep an eye out for damage by slugs, snails, insects etc and take appropriate action 
  • give some attention to plants which you grow in pots or troughs for the balcony or terrace and have been protecting over winter.  They may need repotting or, if not, it is a good idea to remove the top layer of soil in the pot and add some new soil enriched with medium release fertiliser
  • planting in general – May is still a good time for planting, try to get most planting done by the end of the month.  Remember to try and plan for colour and interest in the garden later in the year as well as buying plants which look lovely now.  Check also on drought tolerance and winter hardiness of plants that you are interested in buying.  Try and improve the soil where you plant, many local soils are a limy clay that can be improved by the addition of some organic material and some clean sand and/or gravel for better soil structure and drainage (never use builder’s sand which has poor texture and often contains chemical impurities). Water in well.  Provide stakes or other support if necessary.  Keep an eye on the water needs of spring planted plants during their first summer.
  • clip evergreen hedges, but take care to avoid nesting birds. 

Continuing with our theme about useful and edible plants; this month we will be commenting on herbs with lemon flavour.  There a number of these, all requiring different growing conditions.  Lemon thymes ( the shrubby Thymus x citriodorus or the ground covering Thymus herba-barona Lemon Scented, thym citron in French) like the same dry, sunny growing conditions as ordinary thyme but they make a great flavouring alternative with fish and chicken dishes.

Lemon Balm

Lemon Balm

One can sometimes find a lemon basil which can be used in Indonesian and Lao cookery, unsurprisingly, it has the same cultivation requirements as ordinary basil.  Another popular lemon scented herb is lemon balm (Melissa officinalis or mélisse in French), it likes semi shade and some watering.  It is popular for flavouring ice creams, fruit dishes and for herbal teas.

Also popular for herbal tea is lemon verbena (Aloysia citriodora, verveine citronelle or just simply

Lemon Verbena

Lemon Verbena

verveine in French) but this can also be used for ice creams, desserts and many other dishes where a lemon flavour is needed.  Lemon verbena is a popular garden plant in the Languedoc where it likes a sunny position, it usually dies back in the winter but will reshoot from the root stock in spring.

Lemon Grass

Lemon Grass

And, finally, lovers of Thai and other Asian cuisines, lemon grass (Cymbopogon citratus) can becultivated here but it is doubtfully winter hardy so best in a large pot and brought into a frost free environment for the winter. It likes warmth and plenty of water.   As well as their culinary uses many of these lemony herbs are useful as insect repellent so planting near patios etc can sometimes be a good idea.




Events at La Petite Pépinière:

Sunday 10th May: Planting Design with Mediterranean Native Plants workshop, 10.30am, repeated at 2pm

Come along to this free event to learn about some great planting combinations and designs using Cistus, Phlomis, sages, Teucrium, Thyme, Origanum and other Mediterranean plants.

Gill Pound will give a guided tour (at 10.30 and at 2pm)  to talk about using Mediterranean native plants, looking at the garden’s driest and hardiest Mediterranean borders. Imogen Checketts & Kate Dumbleton will then talk you through 3 different design templates which we will place out in the garden. You will be able to ask for copies of  the planting plans.

Saturday 6th & Sunday 7th June:  our Open Weekend; more details on

and we shall hope to see you there.

For further information contact Gill Pound at La Petite Pépinière de Caunes (shrubs and perennials, ornamental grasses, unusual plants and plants for dry climates), 21, Avenue de la Montagne Noire, 11160, Caunes-Minervois.  Tel: 04 68 78 43 81,



Open every weekend, Fridays, Saturdays & Sundays from 10am until 6pm. Until the end of November, and at other times by appointment.

Book reviews for May

Riviera Revelations

by Isabella Roberts


One can never tell what’s around the corner in life and sometimes it’s best not to know…

After a successful working career and bringing up their family, Paul and Suzanne Martin found themselves in financial difficulties and have no choice but to make drastic and life changing decisions.

After coming to terms with their position, they decide to leave their comfortable life in Yorkshire and take over the joint caretaker ship of a beautiful villa in the south of France.

As they take over the positions from their very helpful predecessors, they find themselves on a steep learning curve, having to adapt to being at the beck and call of their wealthy employers; whilst at the same time undertaking jobs they had previously been used to delegating to others.

However, with true British fortitude, this couple cope with everything which is thrown at them, and as an expat I had to chuckle at some of the situations they found themselves in.

This is a fly on the wall insight into what this type of work is really like, and an interesting glimpse behind the high walls at life in the villas of the rich and famous.

I would thoroughly recommend this as an enjoyable read, either just for fun, or as an affirmation that as an expat in France, you are not the only one to have had such experiences.

Reviewed by Susan Keefe

Available from Amazon 




Tommy Topper and The Pixie Princess

by Joe Corso

51gYg5fsSKL__AA160_This is a magical story about a young man called Tommy Topper who, as he gets to his fourteenth birthday discovers that he is not who he thinks he is, for his mother Martha, father Thaddeus, and Uncle Nick are from another world, Kranta.
However, on Kranta, life has changed for its people, gone are the happy and prosperous days they enjoyed when the good Kind Andrew reigned. Instead, King Andrew’s place has been taken by the evil Ling Clam. He is not a very good wizard but he has tricked the best wizards on Kranta into working for him and turned the world into a very bleak place.
When Ling Clam discovers that Tommy Topper is a threat to him, he sends Gruber and an associate to earth using a magical blue stone, their mission – to kill Tommy!
Aware of the danger Tommy is in, his parents send him to Uncle Nick, who is a wizard, and also lives on Earth, where he learns spells and is prepared to be sent to Kranza. Once there, he is to train under the great wizard Verlan and save its people from Ling Clam.
This book tells of Tommy’s great adventure with Verlan as he searches for, and finds the five magical objects which were hidden by Ling Clam to supress the people of Kranta.
Peril lurks around every corner for the objects are in dangerous and mysterious places with mythical creatures guarding them. To find them Tommy must use his magic and powers, the Book of a Thousand Spells and seek advice from the demon in the mirror. Oh and of course we mustn’t forget the help of Princess Ryanna of Pixie Land, but to find out where she comes in, you will have to read the story…
Joe has yet again pulled the rabbit out of the hat in writing a story full of magic and enchantment which will be a dream come true for lovers of fantasy.
Reviewed by Susan Keefe

Sometimes I Get My Shoes on Backwards

by E. Michael Lunsford
Sometimes_SHADOW_3This is undoubtedly the best poetry book I have ever read. Right from the first one, which incidentally is the title of the book, ‘Sometimes I Get My Shoes on Backwards,’ this collection of thoroughly entertaining poems takes a look at life in a humorous way through the eyes of a child.
As a parent and grandparent I loved the way the author has cap tured their innocence. Covering all sorts of topics, they are all so entertaining, imaginative, original and so very funny. The icing on the cake is that they are delightfully illustrated with line and ink drawings which perfectly capture their essence.
Did I have a favourite, honestly, I loved too many to put a finger on one, however, if I had to choose, it would be out of these… I really loved ‘I’ve Glued My Brother’ and ‘Father’s Moustache’, however very close behind came ‘Omelet City’ and, for me, the poem whose title could have been an alternative title for this book “Life is Real Magic.’
Whether you are an avid fan of poetry, a parent who fancies a laugh, or someone looking to buy their first poetry book, I cannot recommend this one highly enough, and I for one am looking forward to reading more from this talented poet.
Reviewed by Susan Keefe

The Time Portal 6 – The Philadelphia Experiment

by Joe Corso
51z3b-NE-L__AA160_In the Time Portal series of stories by Joe Corso, we follow the adventures of Lucky an ex jewel thief, who, following a terrible injury discovers that he can travel through time. Each one of the series stands alone and focuses on a different period in history, and in this one it is the Philadelphia Experiment.
Lucky is happily living in the 12th century with his wife princess Krystina, and their son, when he feels himself drawn to the present day, where his help is needed.
There, he discovers that the U. S. Navy is using the un-commissioned ship Eldridge to try and reactivate the Philadelphia Experiment, and that it has been only a partial success, sailors are disappearing again…
Can Lucky find them?
To do so he, his sidekick Mickey and Secretary of State Oliver Stanton must travel through the portals and free them from a malignant force.
But where then? Lost in time the travellers encountering people and animals from different periods in the past as they strive to return to their future.
And, all the time, Lucky must evade the clutches of General Peter Slater who wants to imprison him and discover how his powers work.
Meanwhile, back in the 12th century, unbeknown to Lucky, King Robert and the rest of the royal family are in danger as assassins plot against them.
Another fantastic story in the popular Time Portal series with plenty of action, twists and turns and a story line to keep you guessing.
Reviewed by Susan Keefe

Santa’s Snowy Adventure

by Tracy Elman knows that Santa makes his trip around the world with his trusty elves and reindeer, every Christmas dropping off presents to all the good boys and girls on his way; but have you ever thought what would happen if something went wrong?
What if he got held up, would the presents arrive?
One Christmas after kissing Mother Christmas goodbye, he set off on his sleigh laden high with presents, pulled by Jeffery, the Surfer Reindeer in his special jumper, and his other reindeer friends. However, reindeers have needs like any other animal and when one needed to stop, well of course Santa did, but it was on the snow, and unfortunately, the sleigh got stuck!
What a problem!
Can Santa and his  helpers free the sleigh in time?
Will all the good little boys and girls get their presents?
This delightful children’s story, has been beautifully illustrated by the talented Bryan Dave Tagalogon. The author has written in a wonderfully magical way about this very special time of year, and cleverly hidden in the story, messages for children about the virtues working together, keeping promises, and of course being good all year so Santa will come.

X is for Xpat

Ok, before you all write in about my appalling spelling, I know it’s supposed to be “expat” but it was the best I could come up with. I covered X-rays in the Healthcare article, and my knowledge of Xylophones is limited!

175_France_SOS_May15The word expat has, to my mind, largely negative connotations, conjuring up images of hordes of lobster-red Brits abroad swigging pints of lager and dining in point-to-order restaurants with menus featuring photos of stomach-turning fry ups or burgers and chips. Fortunately, this image is a complete misnomer when it comes to most British expatriots living in France.

I hate being described as an expat. I think all of us Brits living in France like to think that a little French class has rubbed off on us, but given that we can’t get away from the expat tag, here are some tips on how to be a good one!

1. Don’t bring England to France

The last thing France wants or needs is El Dorado-esque expat enclaves. Fortunately, in all the years I have spent selling property in the Perpignan area, the most common request from British and Irish buyers looking to relocate is that they want to live in a largely French community. There is a genuine desire to integrate into the French way of life, to embrace French culture and customs and to make French friends. That means learning the language, attending local events such as fêtes and sending children to local schools.

In fact, in some cases, the influx of foreign residents to France has had a quite different effect to that of recreating England in France. By buying unwanted, empty, derelict buildings in small villages and restoring, modernising and living in these properties expats (not just Brits) are ensuring the survival of traditional villages which risked sinking into oblivion. In particular I know of villages where foreign children have enabled schools to keep functioning when otherwise they would have been forced to close.

2. Strike a balance

There is clearly a balance to be struck between maintaining your British roots and embracing the culture of the country which you have chosen to live in. Moving country, even to one we think we know as well as France, can be a huge culture shock. As I’ve said before, it is unrealistic to expect to integrate seamlessly and immediately into French life and it is always nice to have a few of your countrymen to chat to now and then, and natural to want to do so. My personal policy has always been to befriend those I would have befriended back home, but not to try to force a meaningful friendship with someone merely because they are English.

Expat does not of course equal Brit. Anyone residing in a country other than their own is an expatriot and France is a magnet for many nationalities. I belong to a local association – French Anglo Business in the Pyrénées-Orientales – which is an informal network of local small businesses, including gite owners, tour companies, estate agents, builders, workmen and even a clairvoyant – all trying to support each other. The membership is made up of a wide range of nationalities including French, English, Irish, Scandinavians, New Zealanders and South Africans and this eclectic mix makes for a great atmosphere at our get togethers. Which brings me to…

3. Support local businesses

I am often asked whether I have encountered resentment from locals at the number of British buying property here. In fact, the opposite is true in my experience. Local businesses are, by and large, grateful for the trade brought to the region by the influx of expats. In fact, many local builders, electricians, plumbers and others have suffered as a result of the impact of the credit crunch on the numbers of British and Irish buyers in France and hope that these buyers will return.

Of course, expats moving here need, in many cases, to make a living so there will always be businesses run by expats and aimed at expats in France and there is nothing wrong with that per se. Who would object, after all, to a Frenchman setting up a French restaurant in England? What is important is that businesses are registered and therefore contributing to the French system. Which brings me to…

4. Register in the French taxation system

One problem with many expats in France is that they want the best of both worlds – the lower taxes in the UK but all the benefits which life in France offers. There are people living permanently in France with complicated – and not entirely honest – fiscal arrangements designed to ensure they avoid French tax. This can, understandably, be a source of resentment to locals. Who likes a freeloader?

I’m no fan of the French taxman – he takes far more of my income than I would like – but I believe you have to take the rough with the smooth. If you live here, you should be declared into the French tax system and pay taxes like the locals. These are high but, on the plus side, paying them does entitle you to the best state-run healthcare in the world, and possible other benefits such as child benefit or unemployment pay.

5. Give it time

The expatriot life can be wonderful, but it is also challenging. Many people expect to be perfectly settled within a year with a vast social network, fluent French and a clear understanding of French culture and customs. Relish the challenge, don’t expect to feel 100% at home overnight and accept the differences between your new and old lives, good and bad!

by Louise Sayers

This series of articles first appeared in French Property News magazine. Please note that some of the information contained in them may be out of date.

If you happen to be in New York on 11th May and have $140m in your back pocket !

There’s a landmark sale at the Rockefeller Centre.

Christie’s are holding their auction “Looking Forward to the Past” which is additional to its usual twice yearly impressionist & modern art auctions.

The highlight is a Picasso that is set to break all records. Les femmes d’Alger, Version ‘o’ is an energetic cubist work that was last auctioned in 1997. It’s estimated to go for in excess of $140m,  which would be the highest price ever auctioned for a work of art.

As was often Picasso’s custom he would take a classic painted by a master, take it apart and reconstruct it in his particular ‘period’ style. Les femmes d’Alger is a Delacroix which Picasso recreated 15 times in three months during 1954. This one is the last of the series, so it’s rather special.

Picasso May15 Delacroix May15

It’s generally believed that this series was conceived as homage to Henri Matisse who died just before Picasso began his series.

But much nearer home –  in Barcelona – you can see a similar exercise that Picasso produced taking Velasquez’ Royal Group painting as his source. He recognised Las Meninas as a true masterpiece and he disassembled and reassembled it 58 times. The Barcelona Picasso Museum has all 58 so you can compare . . . Picasso recognised the importance of the sequenced series and he made sure they were kept intact.

Velasquez May15 Picasso does Velas May15

So please break your piggy bank and find that $140 million now please.


Beautiful strawberries in a beautiful place

Quite literally Beaulieu is a beautiful place on the Dordogne River with fine renaissance houses and its 05297magnificent Romanesque abbey church. It is, unsurprisingly, one the local ‘Plus Beaux Villages’

During pre-revolutionary times the town was dominated by the ancient Benedictine abbey of St-Pierre although these days only the abbey church remains. Nevertheless, the church is a magnificent Romanesque structure which together with the many other fine edifices in the town such as a 16C tower and the 12C Chapelle des Pénitents, also Romanesque, make Beaulieu a fascinating place to visit.

may 2013 784

Photo by Kay Miller

Today though Beaulieu is more famous for its strawberries and every year on the second Sunday of May people come from far and wide to visit the festival dedicated to this delicious fruit. The event lasts the whole day – local artisans set up their stalls and music can be heard everywhere with everyone entering into the spirit of the occasion. Visitors can attend workshops where chefs pass on tips about preparing strawberry goodies and they can also buy a variety of strawberry related produce from the many stalls.

The highlight of the day however, is the production of an 8 metre strawberry tart made with 800 kg of fruit and claimed to be the biggest in the world. During the afternoon it is cut into slices and distributed to the assembled throng.  An event not to be missed indeed!

This year the Strawberry Festival will be held on May 10th.

Beaulieu is situated in the Corrèze about 25 miles/40km south east of Brive-la-Gaillarde.

screen568x568© Paul Shawcross. Adapted from Paul’s app for smart phone and tablets ‘Dordogne Explorations’ Also available on Google Play

If you live overseas, today is your last chance to register . . .

After the TV debate on the 16th, the leaders of the seven main UK parties have urged people to register to vote before the deadline this Monday, 20 April.

So this a last call to overseas voters, who belong to the millions who are not registered to vote in the UK, to register.

shutterstock_205654936Figures on the Electoral Commission’s website show that overseas voter registrations have hit the 90,000 mark and rising – around 92,000 by 11 April.   There is now a real chance that registrations will hit the campaign’s target of at 100,000 for the first time ever, nearly triple the number of overseas registrations previously seen prior to a General Election.
This is larger than some of the largest constituencies in the UK such as Manchester Central, Bristol West and East Ham, and a figure that can no longer be ignored by politicians.
If you have not registered to vote yet, please do so now and forward this email to all expat friends and relatives who can still vote and ask them to register by TOMORROW, 20 April so that together we can reach 100,000!
To register to vote, please follow this link by 20 April: (please note that you will then also need to submit a postal or proxy vote application – the deadlines are 21 and 28 April for these).
Jane Golding, Brian Cave and Rodney Harper

UPDATE: This year’s Tour de France, starts on Saturday 4th July


Running from Saturday July 4th to Sunday July 26th 2015, the 102th Tour de France will be made up of 21 stages and will cover a total distance of map_route3,344 kilometres (before ratification).

These stages have the following profiles:

  • 9 flat stages
  • 3 hill stages
  • 7 mountain stages with 5 altitude finishes
  • 1 individual time-trial stage
  • 1 team time-trial stage
  • 2 rest days

6 new stage cities

Utrecht, Zélande, Livarot, La Pierre-Saint-Martin, Muret, Sèvres – Grand Paris Seine Ouest.

Grand Depart . . . Utrecht on the move with 100 days to go

Screen Shot 2015-04-09 at 21.26.44

Eagerly awaiting the peloton, Utrecht received a visit from Christian Prudhomme and no fewer than four Tour de France champions: Bernard Hinault, Bernard Thévenet, Jan Janssen and Joop Zoetemelk. The city is all fired up -its inhabitants need no cues from star cyclists to hop onto their bikes.

There is always a buzz of cycling in the air in Utrecht, but today it got even more intense.

The 14 km time trial that will kick off the 102nd Tour de France in the great Dutch university city is just over three months —100 days— away. As the biggest sports event ever held in Utrecht gets closer and closer, mayor Jan van Zanen invited Christian Prudhomme to again visit the sites that will host the race this summer. Two other guests, Bernard Hinault and Bernard Thévenet, were reunited with their old foe Joop Zoetemelk, as well as the first Dutch winner of the Tour, Jan Janssen (1968). The Tour scouts rode along the canals that give Utrecht its special flavour at a much more relaxed pace than the riders.

The guests, naturally aware of the huge importance of soft mobility in cities, were amazed at the sprawling development on the premises of the Utrecht train station where the world’s biggest bicycle shelter is being built. Still in awe at the scale of the project, which will have room for over 12,000 bicycles, the Tour de France boss was delighted with the shared values: 

“This is the country of cycling and, even more so, the city of cycling. As well as races that keep us on the edges of our seats, we also have a passion for promoting cycling for everyone. Of course, this is what attracted us to this place, and I hope our visit in July will inspire lots of cities to follow this example”.

1st May: The first ever ‘Tour de Yorkshire’

Tour de Yorkshire 2015

Bridlington to Scarborough, Selby to York & Wakefield to Leeds

Sir Bradley Wiggins and Marcel Kittel have been confirmed as two of the stars who will take part in the first ever Tour de Yorkshire.

The 2012 Tour de France winner will lead his own Team WIGGINS developmental squad while the German sprinter will return to Yorkshire a year after wearing the first yellow jersey in Harrogate at the Tour de France 2014.

t Welcome to Yorkshire’s Y15 annual conference in Scarborough the race organisers, Amaury Sport Organisation (ASO) and Welcome to Yorkshire, announced the teams which will be taking part. It was revealed that the new race has attracted significant interest from teams, following the massive crowds and challenging terrain which combined in July last year to make it a spectacular Grand Départ of the Tour de France.
Under UCI regulations as a 2.1 stage race, the Tour de Yorkshire has selected a field from five WorldTeams, six Professional Continental Teams, four Continental Teams and a Great Britain National Team.

In total, seven of the teams who raced in the Tour de France are returning to Yorkshire’s roads, and will be joined by an exciting mix of European and home-grown talent. British cycling fans are expected to be delighted at the inclusion of top teams such as Team Sky and brand new Team WIGGINS.

The WorldTeams making a return to Yorkshire following the Tour de France, are: Team Sky, Team Giant-Alpecin, BMC Racing Team, Team Lotto 20150318241_kittel_harrogate_1000-bNL-Jumbo, and IAM Cycling.
The Professional Continental Teams are: Cofidis Solutions Credits, Team Europcar (who both raced in July 2014), MTN-Qhubeka, Cult Energy Pro Cycling, Roompot Oranje Peloton, Topsport Vlaanderen-Baloise

Continental level teams are: Team WIGGINS, NFTO, ONE Pro Cycling and Madison Genesis. The GB National Team will also field eight riders.

Christian Prudhomme, Director of the Tour de France, said: “We will be glad to return to Yorkshire after the huge success of the Tour de France 2014 Grand Départ, the grandest ever. The first ever Tour de Yorkshire will be another occasion to showcase the outstanding landscapes of the county, especially of the coast which we didn’t visit last year with Le Tour.

Tour de Yorkshire will be a great opportunity to review young talents among British riders and enable them to ride with top Tour de France professional teams and cycling stars like Sir Bradley Wiggins and Marcel Kittel.”

It is now up to teams to decide their 8 riders for the race, over a route which was unveiled by Jean Etienne Amaury from ASO in Bridlington in January. The three stages are each quite different, with a punchy route for 174km of Stage One from Bridlington to Scarborough; a tactically important sprinter’s day on Stage Two from Selby to York over another 174km, and a return to some of the climbs and challenges of the Grand Départ as the third day takes riders 167km from Wakefield to Leeds on 3 May.

Gary Verity, Chief Executive of Welcome to Yorkshire, said; “Today is a landmark moment for Yorkshire and it is a credit to every single person who played a role in the Grand Départ – whether they were a spectator, a rider, a Tour Maker – that we have attracted such a high calibre of teams to this first edition of our new race. The start and finish towns for the Tour de Yorkshire and everybody who has already picked out where they will watch on the day, and now, every member of these teams, will experience one of the greatest sports events in the UK in 2015.”

Riders will be selected by the teams and announced in April. Stage one of the Tour de Yorkshire, on Friday 1st May, will start in Bridlington and finish in Scarborough. Stage two, on Saturday 2nd May, will start in Selby and finish in York and stage three, on Sunday 3rd May, will start in Wakefield and finish in Leeds.

The Tour de Yorkshire will be shown live on television in the UK, on British Eurosport and ITV, as well as to 70 countries around the world with a huge television audience expected.
Maps of the routes, timings and information for spectators can be found at;

A woman’s race of four 20km laps of a York circuit will be held on day two of the race, Saturday 2nd May.

Team and riders will be announced in April and one of the first major names confirmed as taking part is Dame Sarah Storey, one of Great Britain’s most decorated female Paralympians in history having won 11 Gold, eight Silver and three Bronze medals across six Paralympic Games. In 2014 Sarah and her husband established women’s team Pearl Izumi Sports Tours International, which dominated the UK domestic racing scene in their first season and, it has been announced today, will be racing the Women’s Tour de Yorkshire.

Bike tourism is booming in France

Lynette Eyb from the cycle tourism website has this advice for gite, B&B and campsite owners wanting to cater for fflogocyclists.

The cycle tourism boom

Did you know that more people visit France each year to ride a bike than to ski? Bicycle tourism is second only to walking when it comes to activity holidays in France. In fact, according to the French Government, more than 7.2 million people ride a bike while on holiday in France every year. With a growing network of official, signposted bike routes, it’s only going to get more popular. .

And that’s good news if you own a gite, B&B or campsite in France.

The Holy Grail for any accommodation owner is to be on or near the Tour de France route each year. It’s the largest annual spectator event anywhere in the world, which means a good flow of traffic for businesses near the route. But it’s not just July: cycle tourism is big business in France from late March through to at least October each year. While summer in France is always busy, cyclists also enjoy the cooler months of spring and autumn because the roads aren’t as busy and the days in the saddle aren’t as hot.

So, how do you convince all these pedal-pushers to stay at your B&B or gite?

What cyclists want

Cyclists are pretty easy to please, though there are a few must-haves that will make them more likely to book with you than the guy up the road. As with ski accommodation, it’s horses for courses.

The following list might look long, but it’s really common sense and most of the things on the list you will already be providing.

1)  Somewhere safe and dry to store bikes     Whether it’s a lockable barn, a utility room, a garage, a dedicated bike shed or simply a corner of the gite or bedroom, cyclists will want to ensure their wheels are safe during their stay with you.

2) Laundry facilities     Somewhere to dry and air wet or sweaty clothes is a must. If you have a washing machine or if you offer a laundry service, even better.

3)  Food      If your cyclists are arriving late, don’t forget to tell them where to find food locally so they can pick something up en route – remember they may be arriving tired after a long day on the bike and may not have a car to drive far after arrival. Some owners provide a ‘welcome pack’ of basic supplies for riders, or offer evening meals. This is a great idea, especially for hungry cyclists who are arriving having burnt up all their energy and eaten all their supplies en route. Don’t forget to remind anyone arriving on Sunday, Mondays or public holidays about local shop/restaurant closures so they can factor this into their route. If you’re a B&B, then offer healthy, hearty breakfasts that can fuel them for the day ahead.

4)  Internet access 
  This is a non-negotiable these days. Free wifi helps cyclists check the weather, plan their routes and download their GPS reports from that day’s ride. It also helps them tell their friends where they’ve been riding via the popular Strava or Garmin route-sharing websites (which may result in some free social media marketing or recommendations for you).
5) Cycling information and route advice     A few IGN or Michelin maps would go down a treat with your cycling guests. You’ll find they’ll pore over them as they plan their next day’s route. Information on any official bike routes in your area is also useful, and can be easily incorporated into your welcome pack. If there are any cycling guidebooks available for your area, then why not have one on your bookshelf?

6) Offer to help with bike hire     Find out where you local bike hire outlet is and what sorts of bikes might be available. Would they deliver to your guests? Some owners also have a small fleet of ‘house’ bikes available for guest use.

7) Where is the nearest bike shop?     
It’s good to include this in your welcome pack in case your guests need inner tubes or other spare parts. Having some basic tools available – bike pump, a small puncture repair kits and a basic tool kit from Decathlon etc – is a bonus. Also consider making a small area of the garden or garage available for guest use as a washdown/bike-cleaning and maintenance area (especially if you are offering bike storage indoors).

What next?

OK, so you offer all this for your cycling guests – don’t forget to shout it from the rooftops.

450 Freewheeling France April15Include your bike credentials on your website (consider having a separate section or ensuring your cycling facilities are well flagged under your ‘activities/things to do’ section). Don’t forget to market your property directly to cyclists via specialist websites like and also mention your cycling facilities in your marketing with booking websites and via social media.  Also find out if there are any cycling events in your area that might help attract riders to you. The Tour de France is an obvious one, but there are hundreds of other professional bike rides that attract spectators to France each year, in addition to cycling festivals, cyclosportives and organised bike rides – list them on your website and let cyclists know you cater for them too.

** If you need nay more information about cycling in France, checkout, or drop Lyn a line at

How will the pension reforms affect you?

by Simon Hilton, Senior Dealer at World First Foreign Exchange

The new rules on pensions kick in next month, promising to give savers more freedom over what they do with their money. But what does it mean to you, what will change, and what do you need to do?

The way it is now

During the first few years of your retirement, you’d probably use the money that you’d saved during your working life to buy an annuity from an insurance company. While you’re currently able to take 25% of your pension in a tax-free lump sum, the rest of the money goes into that annuity whether you like it or not.

What’s changing?

For those aged 55 or older who have a defined contribution pension, you’ll no longer have to spend the remaining 75% of your savings on an annuity. You won’t have to buy one at all if you don’t want to, and you’ll be given free advice to help you make the right decision.

From April, you’ll be able to take a number of smaller lump sums instead of one big one, and 25% of each of these smaller payments will be tax-free. By taking lots of smaller amounts out of your pension rather than one big one, you could save money on the tax you’ll pay.

What could it mean for me?

You’ll have more freedom to do whatever you want with your pot of money. There may now be things you can do that simply weren’t possible before.

Ever dreamed of retiring abroad to a place in the sun? Well, once the pension reforms come in, you could take some money out of your pension and put it towards the deposit for a property abroad – or even pay for it outright.

And it’s a good time to do so too! The pound is at its highest level against the euro since December 2007, which obviously means you’ll get more for your money!

Back in March 2014, £200,000 would have got you roughly €240,000. Now, the same amount would get you around €280,000 – around €40,000 more in the space of one year, up nearly 17%.

That money could come in pretty handy when you get there or, alternatively, it might mean you can now afford a property that’s even more perfect than you thought you could afford.

Or, you could take some money out of pension to be able to fund you son or daughter through university overseas, or buy the painting that you thought you couldn’t afford from that French art dealer. Simply put – you have more control over when you decide to take money – and how much – out of your pension.

Be aware of local rules

For expats living abroad, the rules may be slightly different. For example, for those who live in France, rather than getting a tax free lump sum, they’ll be subjected to a 7.5% flat rate tax – with a possible additional 7.5% social charge (if the Carte Vitales – national insurance – is under the French system as opposed to coming from the UK via an S1 – formerly the E121).

Making the most of my money abroad

If you do decide to spend your pension overseas, you should pay close attention to the exchange rates – dramatic fluctuations one way or the other could mean your lump sum reduces in value from one month, week or day to the next. By managing your currency transfers, and maybe fixing your rate, there should never be any nasty surprises, and your money could end up going further.

For more information – click here.

World First specialises in assisting private and corporate clients with foreign exchange transactions. World First transacted circa £10billion for their clients in 2014. 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 to open a free, no-obligation account in just a few minutes.


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