Thursday, 28 August 2008

Language course

Sorry for the delay since last post. It's been all hands to the pump here as we put the final touches to the Autumn/Winter Edition of The Traveller in France. It's looking great, and you will be able to claim your free bagged copy when you buy the November issue of French Magazine, on sale October 2nd. Meanwhile, the October issue (are you following me?) of French is out next Thursday, September 4th! Full of French goodness, it is.

Today, amongst the pile of press releases and books that postie Steve jovially brings to our grateful editorial floor every day, I got a sample copy of this, a new edition one-day course in French, which is handy for anyone keen to extend their linguistic capabilities beyond baffled grunts, international hand gestures and just saying things slower and louder in English. It's on sale tomorrow.

Wednesday, 20 August 2008

Tot toreador shown the door

Michelito, a tiny bullfighter with a big following in his native Mexico, was recently banned from competing in a non-lethal version of a corrida in the sport's stronghold – the deep South of France. Apparently, the ban was enforced not on animal welfare grounds but because of child labour laws.

Whatever the reasoning, I can think of a million better things to do in Nîmes or Arles, can't you?

Friday, 15 August 2008

Heartbreak hotel

It seems I am not alone in questioning the dubious standards of certain sections of the French tourism/catering industries. This makes for sad reading if you love France as I do. What do you think?

Tuesday, 12 August 2008

La Rochelle revisited

Off to La Rochelle for a few days soon, once both the October issue of French Magazine and the Autumn/Winter issue of The Traveller are done and dusted. I have tarnished memories of this lovely West Coast port, a place that cropped up randomly in GSCE French texts.

I visited for the magazine many years ago and was given a guided tour of the harbour, old town and various museums and squares by a lovely, sweet chap called Monsieur Raymond Rohou.

White of hair and 'tache was he, and no spring chicken, yet his zest for sharing his considerable knowledge of his adopted town was infectious. He would stoop, arms behind his back, looking into the windows of antique shops, raving about which trinket he fancied. He took me for lunch at one of the town's many lively seafood restaurants and bombarded me with facts, stats and recipe tips. He was great company, very polite, wise and calm – a perfect gent, if there is such a thing.

I kept in touch with him intermittently by postcard over the years. I would send mine from whichever part of France I was visiting, as did he initially, but these arrived increasingly frequently with a La Rochelle stamp. He was clearly not getting about much. Then one day I received a heartbreaking letter from his wife, informing me of his sudden passing and thanking me for my efforts in keeping up correspendence, which apparently he enjoyed greatly. I certainly did.

The message? Don't just respect your elders, make friends with them, even if you do meet them randomly in France. I'll be raising a glass of Muscadet to the silver fox when I visit.

Friday, 8 August 2008

New French Magazine on sale now!

The latest issue of French Magazine is now available online and in the shops (WHSmiths, Tesco). We're thrilled with the redesign and new features, and hope our readers are equally impressed!

Wednesday, 6 August 2008

Eau no!

As money worries bite across the Channel, one of the first luxuries the French have forsaken is mineral water. The country that brought us Evian and Vittel has turned from bottle to tap, with sales of mineral water down 6.7% on last year. Eco-savvy consumers, too, are being blamed for the decrease in sales, as many people are concerned about the environmental impact of their discarded plastic bottles. Instead, soda streams – the 70s gadgets that turn tap water fizzy – are enjoying a comeback. What next, raspberry slush puppies at the Elysée Palace? If you've seen similar evidence of times-a-changin' in France, pray tell.

Tuesday, 5 August 2008

Get 20% off a summer cruise!

If anyone fancies messing about on a French river this summer, I just received this fabulous offer from Le Boat:

Follow in Rick Stein’s wake along the famous Canal du Midi

Leading boating holiday specialist the Le Boat group has made it even easier to follow in Rick Stein’s wake by offering 20% off Canal du Midi cruises for holidays between 15th August and 11th September 2008 in the South of France.

From Le Boat’s base in Narbonne it’s possible to cruise the same route taken by Rick, enjoying the fabulous views and scenery of this World Heritage Site, in addition to stopping off at the same wine cellars and many waterside restaurants serving local dishes such as the regions famous Cassoulet.

Longer cruises will also see you take in the impressive walled city of Carcassonne and the lovely town of Castelnaudary – both with great options for mooring up before heading off to explore.

No previous boating experience is required as the boats are easy to operate and helpful base staff ensure you are comfortable at the helm before setting off on your holiday. Also, for those new to boating holidays Le Boat provides a DVD with techniques and tips to introduce cruising.

Le Boat’s cruisers sleep from two to twelve people with prices for a one week holidays starting from just £179 per person based on four people sharing a two cabin cruiser. Holidays must be booked by 31st August.

Comprising the renowned brands Crown Blue Line, Connoisseur and Emerald Star, the Le Boat group has been providing self-drive river and canal holidays for over 40 years. For more information call 0844 463 3577 or visit

Monday, 4 August 2008

Service without a smile

A French Magazine reader wrote to me complaining about a recent stay in France that left a distinctly bitter taste in her mouth. What was the source of her ire? It wasn't the feeble euro exchange rate she got for her hard earned pounds. Nor was it an over-priced, below-par meal, dog poo on the trottoir or even striking public sector workers (at least one of these can usually be relied upon to wind someone up on holiday).

She had, in fact, been on the wrong end of some shockingly bad customer service at a (British-run) B&B near Carcassonne. A frosty reception (ie, the welcome, not the porch), uncleaned bathrooms, messy tables at breakfast (not cleaned since dinner the previous evening), unkempt gardens that didn't resemble the publicity photos... Her list went on, but the gist of it was that the owners couldn't really care less about making her stay a pleasant one.

I can sympathise. I've stayed in a few miserable places in France in my time, and I've written in the magazine before about why the star ratings system in French hotels needs looking at. It needs to reflect the subjectively assessed attributes of an establishment that currently aren't measured (friendliness, anyone?). We wait with baited breath. Have you had any similar experiences on your French travels?

Friday, 1 August 2008

Facebook Francophiles

Join our new French Magazine Facebook Group now to see exclusive previews of the new issue (on sale August 7th), join discussions with like-minded Francophiles and to share your thoughts and photos from recent visits to France. It's free and easy to join.