Monsieur La Quintinie celebrations

Every year, on the first weekend of October, the town of Chabanais celebrates La Quintinie.

Why? Well, here’s the history bit in brief!

Jean-Baptisite de La Quintinie was born in 1626 here in Chabanais, Charente. Initially, he went to Paris as a lawyer at the Parliament, as he was known for his exceptional writing skills. The president of the general accounting office requested that La Quintinie teach his son whilst on a trip to Italy. During the trip La Quintinie was impressed with the Italian gardens and became fascinated with horticulture. On their return from Italy, La Quintinie decided to give up his legal career and started studying and practicing in the gardens at an hotel. He visited England twice and King James II offered him a job managing his gardens, but La Quintinie declined preferring to be in France.

La Quintinie’s excellent reputation as a soil expert and gardener saw him work for many dignitaries. Then in 1661, Louis XIV gave him a job in the vegetable garden at Versailles. In 1670 the King created the role of ‘director of the royal fruit and vegetable gardens’ for La Quintinie who went on to design the ‘potager du roi’, the King’s vegetable garden between 1678 and 1683. This was a nine-hectare area. The objective being to provide fresh produce for the royal court and also becoming a horticultural experimental garden to cultivate out of season fruits and vegetables. When La Quintinie died in 1688 at Versailles, Louis XIV said to his wife ‘madame, we have suffered a great loss that we can never repair’.

So here in Chabanais they are very proud of this history. Many exhibitors participate selling their local produce of fruits, vegetables plants and flowers over the weekend, plus their arts and crafts, wine, cheese, honey, nougat, fresh bread and freshly prepared crepes. Indoors, there is a selection of handmade jewellery, soft toys and more.

The theme for the celebrations this year is ‘l’eau au jardin’ and unfortunately Saturday saw continual heavy rain all day, so quite apt! However, Sunday was better and the market nice and busy.

The event was organised in association with the Friends of Quintinie who also ran gardening workshops on the two days.

I just love the charm of these local events. I was so tempted to buy a plant or two, but we are still about seven weeks away to moving into our house in Loubillé.

Angoulême Circuit des Remparts

Last Saturday, Chabanais was busy and buzzing with competing cars from the Angoulême ‘Circuit des Ramparts’ having a lunchtime ‘pit stop’.

The Angoulême Circuit des Remparts weekend is an event where classic cars ‘race’ around the twisting roads of Angoulême. It is a key event for car enthusiasts!

The first race was held in 1939 and the circuit of 1,279 meters has not changed since. Relaunched in 1947 but abandoned in 1955, this race saw the greatest drivers of the time. Although the circuit is often referred to as the slowest in the world, this didn’t stop Juan Manuel Fangio leaving his mark in 1950 with three hours and twenty-four minutes for the 80 laps.

In 1983 Circuit des Ramparts was revived. Today, only three French city circuits are active, the others being Pau and Monaco. This year is special, as it is the 50th edition of Circuit des Ramparts.

So, it is historic but also a celebration with concours competitions. A beautiful road trip through the Charente countryside!

In the park, along the river, on side roads, all the cars looked so colourful and really great in the autumn sunshine and Steve was in his element. Seeing an Alfa Romeo Alfasud, the first car he owned!

Then possibly his favourite car? Alfa Romeo Duetto Spider.

So, next year why not bring your classic car and come and tour the beautiful Charente region.

La Route de la France

We are two months into our French adventure and funny really, as this move just doesn’t feel as daunting as when we moved to Spain. I guess we know the sort of things we have to do and organise although this time after Brexit, it is an eye opener to say the least or maybe that should be a ‘wallet opener’!

We were introduced to Beatrice (Anglo French Solutions) who has outlined a schedule for us to work through. She is ‘holding our hand’ through the complication of French paperwork. I hate filling forms in at the best of times and that’s in English! She also arranged for us to have a letter signed by the mayor here in Chabanais, confirming we are living here, as we are renting and don’t have utility bills as proof of address which is needed for almost everything we have to do. She said it would be very useful. I’ll call it our ‘golden letter.’

So, step one was the validation of our French Visas here in France, not explained to us in the UK. Back online to our application account and “Darling where is the bank card?” That will be €200.00 each! And, no, I don’t know what the fee we paid in the UK was for either. A little Brexit gem?

Onto the car and first to declare it to French customs. We had driven over after our belongings had been shipped and declared. So, armed with our volumes of paperwork and our golden letter in hand, we drove to Angouleme, the capital of this region (Poitou Charentes) to the customs office. The French customs officer inspected our papers and also smiled at our golden letter and muttered ‘parfait’. The process was quick and easy and we even had the certificate issued while we waited which was free!

To matriculate the car onto French plates it is necessary to change our headlamps back to our Spanish ones as we are driving on the right hand side of the road once more. That done, next the French MOT, time for the wallet again! Since Brexit the UK MOT is not recognised. €80.00 later, our paperwork has been sent off to hopefully complete the process. Just the final fee outstanding which is one we know about just not how much!

Next, on our list, open a French bank account. Again copies of all our paperwork and our golden letter, which you guessed, was met with a smile by the bank assistant and a muttered ‘parfait’. Two and a half hours later, we had completed the bank’s paperwork and I think two hours of that was completing their security checks. However, we were dealt with by a person face to face who really made us feel welcome, the way UK banks used to be years and years ago. In fact, he was keen to give us information on good restaurants rather than sell bank products! Refreshing after an exhausting week of transferring money daily from our UK bank account to our existing Euro bank account. With every transfer having to be authorised with the bank customer services team (minimum 30 minute phone call), who are based in countries where scams and fraud are prolific. It makes you wonder how safe our customer data really is, as on one call, we could hear a voice in the background coaching the agent with the security questions, frightening! How do banks check on their employees?

Yesterday, a visit to the vets. Charlie needed checking for a skin problem and we also decided to get his microchip details updated to the address here. Another ‘to do’ ticked off our list. As mentioned in the previous post, Charlie has his Pet Health Certificate (PHC) which is valid for 4 months to re enter UK. Therefore, when the vet explained Charlie should have had his microchip updated in the first 8 days of arriving here, it was a surprise, as nothing is mentioned on the PHC. This means France will not let our dear Charlie out of the country for 6 months, which is OK of course, but what does the PHC ‘valid for 4 months’ mean then?

It does feel, and Beatrice also mentioned, that people and businesses are still working out what Brexit really means in day to day life? Anyway, we carry on ‘being processed’ into the French system and really look forward to our future here in France, where to date, everyone has been so friendly and helpful!

Of course, our main focus and most of our time has been to spent finding our new home. We’ve been busy travelling around the region viewing properties. Aigre, below, one of the places we viewed houses and added a nice lunch stop at Le Square.

So many beautiful hamlets and towns …..

And driving through the countryside full of fields of sunflowers, just stunning!

Charlie went to several viewings when they were over an hour away. He’s tested out quite a few gardens and was seriously not impressed when put back in the car and driven away, bless. But fantastic news, two weeks ago, we had our offer accepted on a house!

Here the process takes at least three months and I fear three long months as we are so excited! We’ve already decided where the Christmas tree will go! But, so I don’t jinx the sale, no more details for now as the paperwork is being prepared for stage one and yes, our golden letter was needed again!