Monday, February 17, 2020

Loving being a tourist in Poitiers

French Village Diaries Love Tour of Poitiers
Cathedral St Pierre, Poitiers

Poitiers Love Tour

I loved playing the tourist in Poitiers on Saturday, as my silly selfie photos show, and following a morning mooch around the historic town centre, a spot of retail therapy and a tasty Turkish treat from a smiling vendor at the market, in the afternoon I joined a love themed guided walk run by the tourist board. Even our guide commented on how different this walk was from her usual tours. Rather than focus on the architecture or a specific period of history, she had devised a route to include locations important to some unusual ‘love’ stories from the past.
French Village Diaries Love Tour of Poitiers
Notre-Dame-La-Grande church, Poitiers
We were shown where on the façade of the Notre-Dame-La-Grande church, situated in the cobbled market place, we could spot the statues depicting the temptation of Adam and Eve, the original lovers. (Just above my right eye, if you fancy zooming in).
French Village Diaries Love Tour of Poitiers
The dark and sombre interior of Notre-Dame-la-Grande
We heard about the young man who, disgraced by dying in the arms of a prostitute, was denied a Christian burial and his body buried in a ditch. His salvation came about when a pure white rose grew and bloomed in the ditch one winter. When his body was exhumed, between his lips a piece of paper with the name of Maria written on it was discovered. It was believed that only the Virgin Mary could have been behind this miracle. He now has an almost invisible column with a rose motif in the wall of the Notre-Dame-La-Grande church, where his body was reburied.

The clothes shop Zara was certainly a surprise location for a historical tour, but its branch in Poitiers is rather unique as it’s built around the ruined columns of a convent chapel. This had links to both Madame de Montespan and Madame de Maintenon, ladies of favour (and bearers of many illegitimate children) of King Louis XIV.

No guided tour of Poitiers could ignore Aliénor of Aquitaine (1122-1204), whose presence is felt all over town. Married to Louis VII when she was only 15, and then fifteen years later to Henri Plantagenêt, ten years her junior, there are many stories to be told about her travels in the area, her liaisons and her troubadours. Guillaume le troubadour, Comte de Poitou-duc d’Aquitaine, famous for pleasing the ladies with his poems and love songs, also has quite a few links to the town.
French Village Diaries Love Tour of Poitiers
The Couvègnes statue of Mercury at the chamber of commerce, Poitiers
The residents of the 1930’s were a little more reserved than our medieval ancestors, as the statue above the chamber de commerce shows. Here the sculptor Couvègnes depicts a naked Mercury, but his manhood was deemed too much for the young women of the era and was brutally sliced off!
French Village Diaries Love Tour of Poitiers
Hotel de Ville, Poitiers
Fitting for a love themed weekend, there was even a wedding at the impressive Hotel de Ville. As I took a well-earned pause to read my book on a sunny bench, the wedding party appeared on the steps, accompanied by a celebratory cheer from friends and family that quickly rippled around the square, as those enjoying an al fresco lunch echoed their congratulations.

Feeling every one of the 8km I had walked, as I made my way back to Ed’s flat for a reviving cup of tea and slice of cake, the five o’clock bells began to ring out all over the town, and as Poitiers is also known as the city of 100 bell towers, you can imagine how lovely a sound that was.

I’m so glad I went, despite the group mostly consisting of couples and being the only English person there. For an interesting walk that took almost two hours, with lots of information from our animated guide, it was worth the 5.50€ charge and I’ll certainly be looking out for future walks.

I might not have been with my love this weekend, but I certainly felt the love in the air in the beautiful city of Poitiers.

Wednesday, February 12, 2020

British Embassy outreach meeting, Civray February 2020

French Village Diaries British Embassy Outreach Meeting Civray February 2020 Brexit
British Embassy Outreach meeting with Mathew Lodge, Civray 2020 

British Embassy outreach meeting, Civray February 2020

Yesterday afternoon, in a theatre full of worried British citizens (and a few concerned French ones), I listened with interest to Mathew Lodge, deputy to the UK Ambassador in France, talk about the current situation for British citizens living in France. 

Here is a quick summary of the major points that stood out for me, but at the bottom I will include some useful links to more detailed information.

1) I thank fuck that a Withdrawal Agreement was put into place before Boris ‘Got Brexit Done’. I can’t imagine the shit we would all be in if we didn’t have it.

2) Those of us already legally resident in France (or those who become resident here before the 31st December 2020) will evolve to become a new species of British citizen from 1st January 2021. For the purposes of this blog post, let’s call ourselves the ‘WA Brit’. We might not have super powers, but we do have protected rights in many areas. 

3) Our rights to live and work in France, and to access the services and benefits system are to be maintained, as they were when we were EU Citizens, now and forever. I can picture the confusion already:

“Mais Madame la Fonc, I am no ordinary Brit (see me puff out my chest and stand as tall as my 5ft-and-a-biscuit frame will allow). I am a WA Brit. I need my own tick box on your form please, for I am not an EU citizen, but then neither am I classed as a third country national.” 

This will no doubt be met with a gallic shrug of her shoulders and prove to be a sticking point for many years to come.

4) Our pension contributions, both here in France and the UK are protected, and we will benefit from a lifelong uprating of pensions, even for those of us who have not yet reached retirement age.

5) Those of us registered with the French healthcare system (and if you are living here and haven’t yet registered DO IT NOW) will continue to benefit from the French issued EHIC (European health care card) for use in the UK and for our travels in other EU states.

6) Our children will continue to be treated like EU citizens in terms of education provision, including university and higher education courses, although access to teaching degrees seems to be an issue as we can no longer work in the public sector. Our children who choose to return to the UK for university will benefit from ‘home’ as opposed to ‘overseas’ student fees until 2028.

7) We will all need to apply for a WA Brit titre (carte) de séjour, even if you are in possession of a recently issued EU card. The French authorities have already issued a detailed directive to all Mairies, a translation of which I have included at the bottom of this post. 

8) The WA is already a legally binding agreement and everything within it is protected, no matter what issues arise during the trade negotiations that are currently taking place. 

French Village Diaries British Embassy Outreach Meeting Civray February 2020 Brexit
Talking to Mathew Lodge, deputy Ambassador

Buoyed by his words of reassurance, I took myself onto the stage afterwards to have a one to one chat with him. Having first thanked him for coming and for having such positive news to share, I then asked a more specific question for our circumstances, that of Adrian’s work providing services. It was at this point his smile dropped just fractionally. Services it seems is a hot bed of shit thanks to the City of London and its Financial Services, (which is oddly enough the world I used to live in pre-Ed and moving to France). His view is that there are just too many regulations and tax implications surrounding services, that an agreement on services is unlikely, ever.

This is the worry I have had since June 2016 and despite the reassurance given in so many areas yesterday, I can’t help but feel why us? Of all the great things covered in the WA, what is not covered is voting in France or standing for election in France, something that has been a major part of my French life for the last six years, and more importantly the provision of services across borders, which is exactly what Adrian’s French operated company provides and where our family income comes from. Up shit creak without a paddle comes to mind.

This meeting wouldn’t have been possible without the work of Kathryn Dobson and the British in Europe team. They have been, and hope to continue to be, our voice in France, in the EU and in the UK as the negotiations proceed. They have a legal team who ensure they can provide jargon-free accurate information as quickly as possible, as and when our situation changes. If you haven’t already, do visit their website where there are explanatory guides to the WA. 

Also on their website you can find details of their crowdfunder appeal. In order for their small team of ten volunteers to continue to work to help us, they need our help financially. Without donations towards travel expenses and fees, they can’t guarantee being able to continue to fight for our rights. Click here to help secure our future.

Translated message sent to all Mairies concerning Titre de Séjour for British citizens living in France before the end of the WA:

“The Withdrawal Agreement for the United Kingdom leaving the European Union on 1 February 2020 provides for a transitional period until 31 December 2020 during which all the current rights of British nationals, acquired as European Union nationals, are maintained.

British nationals are therefore not currently subject to the obligation to hold a residence permit.

The provisions of the Withdrawal Agreement will apply to British nationals and their family members already settled in France on the date of withdrawal of the United Kingdom or those coming to settle in France before 31st December 2020. As per the Withdrawal Agreement, British nationals will be issued specific residence permits which they will have to apply for from July 2020 and before 1st July 2021.

They will not be required to hold a residence permit until this date.

To facilitate this, a new online application site adapted to the provisions of the Withdrawal Agreement will be opened in early July 2020.

The site that was opened on 9th October 2019 in anticipation of a No Deal Brexit is now closed. The information that has already been uploaded has been kept so those who have already submitted an application will not need to make a new request. A standard email will be sent out to the those concerned.

Consequently, British nationals living in the department are invited to wait for the opening of the new dedicated online system which will be available in July 2020.”

Further detailed information can be found at these websites:

Wednesday, February 5, 2020

Book review of For Love or Money by Clodagh Murphy

French Village Diaries book review For Love or Money by Clodagh Murphy
For Love or Money by Clodagh Murphy

For Love or Money

Lesley has always fancied herself as an amateur sleuth, a sort of modern day Miss Marple without the support stockings.

So when Al wants to hire her to investigate his elderly uncle's young fiancée, she jumps at the chance. It doesn't hurt that the job will involve posing as Al's girlfriend and joining his glitzy, star-studded family on holiday in Nice.

Stella still can't quite believe she's engaged to legendary actor Sir Peter Bradshaw. She accepted what she thought was a deathbed proposal. Now she has a living, breathing fiancé and a wedding to plan.

First, though, she has to get through a holiday in the South of France with Peter's extended family, who all seem convinced she's a gold-digger with her sights set on the family fortune.

As Lesley bonds with Stella over shopping trips and bottles of rosé, she thinks she has it all figured out. After all, it's no great mystery why a young woman would marry a fabulously wealthy seventy-two-year-old with a heart condition, is it? It's an old story.

And Al may be the nicest boyfriend she's ever had (even if he is fake), but Lesley believes in instant attraction and there's just no spark ... no matter how fit he looks in his swimming trunks. So there's no chance he's going to grow on her.

But people have a way of surprising you, as she's about to discover ...
French Village Diaries book review For Love or Money by Clodagh Murphy
For Love or Money by Clodagh Murphy

My Review:

When Lesley meets Al, she thinks it’s a one-off until he turns up at her door and makes her an offer she can’t refuse. After all what could be better than two weeks in the south of France, with your boyfriend and his famous acting family, even if he’s not really your boyfriend, but someone who has asked you along undercover to investigate his uncle Peter’s new fiancée, Stella. 

How hard can it be to sit in the sun and play the girlfriend, even if his cousins are total heartthrobs and you find yourself bonding with the lady you are supposed to be snooping on. Stella’s love for Peter seems genuine enough and she’s delighted to have a friend in Lesley, but with the mystery surrounding her past, they can’t help but feel there is something she’s hiding.

I loved this book; the characters were great fun and the chemistry and dynamics between them really brought them to life. There is glitz and glamour, emotions and heartache, plus lots of humour too, all brought together with a mystery to be solved. No one is being totally honest when it comes to relationships, but can they keep to their stories when real feelings begin to bubble to the surface.

This book has a bit of everything, and the intriguing plot kept me page turning well into the night. If you are looking to escape the winter blues with some fun and frolics in a villa in the south of France, look no further.

Purchase Links: 

French Village Diaries book review For Love or Money by Clodagh Murphy
Clodagh Murphy, For Love or Money

Author Bio: 

Clodagh Murphy lives in Dublin, Ireland and writes funny, sexy romantic comedies. She always dreamed of being a novelist, and after more jobs than she cares to (or can) remember, she now writes full-time. For more information about her books or to sign up to her newsletter, visit her website at

Social Media Links: 

French Village Diaries book review For Love or Money by Clodagh Murphy
For Love or Money Clodagh Murphy

Sunday, February 2, 2020

Significant days, dates and times

French Village Diaries significant days, dates and times Chandeleur brexit

Today is La Chandeleur, or Candlemass Day, significant for being the mid-way point between the shortest day and the spring equinox, as well as the Catholic feast of the purification of the Virgin Mary, forty days after Christmas. 

There are many traditions associated with Candlemass day. Here in France pancakes are eaten and it is believed that successfully tossing them while holding a coin in your writing hand, will bring prosperity for your family this year. Tossing pancakes, in either my left or right hand, has never been one of my talents, but as Bernadette at the village boulangerie had made the effort to cook a stack of real French crêpes this morning, I have placed my chances of prosperity for the year in her expert hands.

This year the date is also palindromic 02/02/2020 and it happens to be the 33rd day of a leap year, leaving 333 days remaining. For number nerds like me, these numeric patterns are quite significant, although I can’t say I can feel any positive vibes coming from them this year.

French Village Diaries significant days, dates and times Chandeleur brexit
Citizen of Europe

What is also significant is the seismic shift that occurred in our lives this weekend. No longer are we EU citizens living in another EU state from where we were born. We are now classed as third country nationals. We have lost our right to vote in France or stand for election to the local council, and as we have been out of the UK for over fifteen years, we now have no right to vote anywhere. I would feel like a citizen of nowhere if it weren’t for the love and support we have had from our French friends in the village.

President Macron has also publicly shown his support for the British living in France with his message assuring us we have a place here.

“À tous les Britanniques qui vivent en France depuis tant d'années : vous êtes en France chez vous, aujourd'hui et demain.”

You can read his full statement in English here and also the touching words of Alain Rousset, President of the Region Council of Nouvelle-Aquitaine here.

French Village Diaries significant days, dates and times Chandeleur brexit
The Maire joins us for an apero of solidarity
The Maire in our village, who I have had the privilege to work alongside as a councillor for the last six years, spoke of his regret that I can no longer be included in the list for re-election this March, and many others in the village have told me they feel the same way.

“Jacqui, une nouvelle fois, tu avais toute ta place sur une liste constituée en vue de l’élection de mars prochain. Je regrette sincèrement que ton nom risqué de ne pays y figurer. Si j’en avais le pouvoir, je te ferais conseillère municipal d’honneur de Loubillé !”

We have entered a period of transition, from now until the 31st December, a mere 333 days, during which, with the exception of voting rights nothing much will change. I can only hope that clarity for our position after that will be made clear sooner rather than later. In much the same way that the UK government have focussed solely on the wishes of those who voted to leave the EU in the last three and half years, they are currently only concerned with brokering a trade deal with the EU in terms of goods. The current Withdrawal Agreement doesn’t cover the provision of services across borders, which is the crux of our business and our income, so for us the uncertainty of the full effects of Brexit is still as big an issue as it was at the referendum in 2016.

On Friday night we marked the official leaving of the UK from the EU in our own way, surrounded by friends and a community that is there for each other. We dined on fish and chips, then crooned our way through lyrics that included ‘The Winner Takes It All’, ‘Never Gonna Give EU Up’ and ‘Why, Why, Why, Delilah’, all washed down with copious amounts of French wine. As midnight approached, we played Europe’s ‘The Final Countdown’, followed by a candlelit minute’s silence, before a rousing rendition of ‘Auld Lang Syne’ and Vera Lynn’s ‘We’ll Meet Again’. It was quite an emotional moment for us all.

The dates this weekend might well be significant, but I for one have never felt so insignificant. Heartbroken doesn’t come close.

Wednesday, January 29, 2020

Book review of A Crown in Time by Jennifer Macaire

French. Village Diaries book review A Crown in Time Jennifer Macaire
A Crown in Time by Jennifer Macaire

A Crown in Time by Jennifer Macaire

In the far future, a convicted criminal is given a chance at redemption.  
Her mission? To save the crown of France by convincing a young noble not to join the ill-fated Eighth Crusade.
But nothing goes as planned, and Isobel finds herself accompanying a hot-headed youth on his way to fight the infidel in Tunis: a battle Isobel knows is fated to be lost.
From the rainy villages of medieval France, to the scorching desert of Tunis - Isobel faces her destiny and tries to fulfil her duty, knowing she can never return to her time, knowing that a wrong move can doom the future, or doom her to be burned as a witch.
French. Village Diaries book review A Crown in Time Jennifer Macaire
A Crown in Time Blog Tour

My review

Paying the price for a moment of distraction that had devastating consequences on the lives of two families, Isobel is sent back in time on a mission to right another wrong. She knows from the start this is a one-way trip, with the only option being success, as failure will mean she is erased from time. Hers is a lonely mission with huge responsibility and high stakes. 

Arriving in France at a difficult period in time, Isobel is tasked to persuade the young Jean not to leave his family for an ill-fated crusade in Tunis. With knowledge that stands her out from the crowd, she can’t risk those around her becoming suspicious of her behaviour or singling her out as different, but who can she trust as a friend to help her to fulfil her mission.

One of the first people she meets is Charles, who becomes her loyal companion and helps her settle in to her new life, but things don’t go to plan. The facts she has been given don’t match the reality she finds herself living, and very soon she is swept along with the action, quickly becoming embedded in life on the crusade. Alongside her, we experience the discomfort, hunger, dirt and disease of daily life, and get an insider’s eye on the crusade and life in a royal court. 

Living in a family unit and forming relationships, Isobel must battle with her emotions, both memories from her past (in the future) that never leave her, as well as feelings for those who she is now living amongst. She cannot risk her actions changing history in a different way than the Time Correctors planned. 

I enjoyed following Isobel who showed herself as strong and determined, choosing to hang in rather than quit, but her flaws and mistakes are not overlooked either. If you are looking for something a bit different that seamlessly ties together the future, the past and complex relationships, then this book should tick all these and more.

Purchase links

French. Village Diaries book review A Crown in Time Jennifer Macaire
Jennifer Macaire A Crown in Time

Author Bio 

Jennifer Macaire is an American living in France. She likes to read, eat chocolate, and plays a mean game of golf. She grew up in upstate New York, Samoa, and the Virgin Islands. She graduated from St Peter and Paul High School in St Thomas and moved to NYC where she modelled for five years for Elite. She went to France and met her husband at the polo club. All that is true. But she mostly likes to make up stories.

French. Village Diaries book review A Crown in Time Jennifer Macaire

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