July 26, 2017

Le Trèfle du Perche

Trèfle and Mothais sur Feuille

Walk into any fromagerie in France during goat cheese season (April to November) and you will be faced with a tempting array of wrinkly rectangles, fresh drums, blue mold covered cylinders, two-toned cones, grey pyramids, white diamonds, discs wrapped in leaves, and a distinctive four-leaf clover, le Trèfle du Perche.

In the French cheese world, this one is fairly recent creation.
Back in 1999 a group of 7 artisan cheesemakers in the northern part of the Loire Valley and the southern part of Normandy established l’Association des Fromagers Caprins Perche et Loir (after numerous meetings involving copious amounts of local cheese and wine I like to think) and created a new goat cheese. Their goal was to come up with a fromage de chèvre that would be instantly recognizable and that would become associated with their region. During its inception, one of the members spotted an unusual, four-leaf clover shaped clay cheese mold in a local rural museum and the rest is history.

Fromage de Chèvre

Beneath its thin rind of blue-gray ash and mold, the snowy white interior is rich, creamy and melt-in-your-mouth tender. Depending on its age, the flavors can range from fresh milk and hazelnuts, to peppery with a long finish.

Le Trèfle, which means "clover" in French, has been in production since 2005 and is currently made by a dozen farmers in 4 French departments; the Eure-et-Loir, the Loir-et-Cher, the Sarthe and the Orne. This little goat cheese is unpasteurized, with a minimum affinage* of 10 days and a maximum of about 1 month. In 2012 the l’Association des Fromagers Caprins Perche et Loir (AFCPL) applied for an AOC for their cheese. I'm wishing them the best of luck!

Le Trèfle

A few wine suggestions to pair with le Trèfle; a Sauvignon Blanc or Chenin Blanc from the Loire Valley if you prefer white, or a Gamay from the Loire Valley if you prefer red.





*ageing





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July 1, 2017

5 Things

Smoke break

1) Cigarette break


Chores

2) I guess this means that no one is exempt from doing their chores?


Café and crêpe time

3) Café time


Looking down

4) Looking down


Champagne cruise

5) View from the river




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June 20, 2017

Cost of Living In France - Paris Edition

Le Parisien

PSA: Paris is expensive! (or does that go without saying?)

When we were at our place in the Minervois last autumn, we sat down at one of our favorite cafés in Olonzac after running some errands and ordered coffees. When we were ready to leave I went inside to pay and the owner, Stephane, said that we owed €2.40. Thinking that he had made a mistake, I said, "no, we had two coffees." He looked at me and smiled and said, "Jennifer, you're not in Paris."
Oh, right.

Outside of Paris, it appears that the wine, the food, the restaurant prices, the rent, the fuel, the tolls, everything but the electricity, internet and the cost of renewing a 10 year carte de résident, is less expensive.
Much less expensive.

Paris

That isn't to say that life in Paris isn't worth the higher prices. And conveniences.
I love the fact that we can have groceries, dry cleaning and meals delivered. I love the accessibility to museums and art galleries. I love that we have Indian, Thai, Lebanese, Korean and Sichuan restaurants on our doorstep. Not to mention the fantastic, efficient public transportation system. People may grumble about it, but just travel to other large cities and you'll quickly learn to appreciate it! (I'm looking at you, Rome)

The fromageries, pâtisseries and boulangeries (in general) are better in Paris. We are seriously spoiled for choice here. I can walk one block for a baguette from an award winning bakery or walk across the street for a delicious French meal from our local café.

Being able to afford to live in Paris is something I personally will never take for granted.

Paris

Laurent Dubois

So what does it cost?

Our current situation is this: in Paris we pay rent, fees and must carry renters insurance, in addition to paying taxes, electricity, water and homeowners insurance on our house in the south.

Rent for a 450 square foot apartment, which is small, but it has a big terrace with an amazing view and has plenty of room for the two of us - 1600 € - (that price includes water, EDF (electricity), home phone, internet, agency fees and building charges)
Heath Insurance top up (to cover the 30% that isn't covered by the state) - 125 € 
Car and Home Insurances - 60 € (we still own our car, it's down at our house in the Languedoc)
Taxes (Habitation and Foncières and TV) - 70 €
Groceries, eating out and entertainment (approx.) - 600 €
Monthly Métro pass and taxis -  120 €
Mobile phones - 25 €

Total 2595 €

Eh voilà! 



We think that we manage to live quite well on what many would consider a small budget.

Entertainment and eating out are definitely where we spend the least, compared with many of our friends. We simply don't eat out that often, mainly because I love to cook (I find it relaxing), love to shop and be inspired by the seasonal fruit and vegetables at the local markets, and we are often, sadly, underwhelmed by restaurant meals.
That isn't to say that we don't enjoy eating out at the handful of our favorite restaurants from time to time. There are some incredible places to eat in Paris! It's just that we would rather go out to eat occasionally and enjoy a really great meal, rather than go out more often and suffer through an expensive, mediocre meal.

Paris

Looking back, I see that things have definitely changed since I started sharing my Cost of Living posts!

When I wrote the first post in 2008, I was still fighting with the sous-préfecture in Béziers to give me the right to work or be self employed. We were hanging on, spending a mere 800 € a month, and the exchange rate was 1€ = $1.48. Ouch!
Two years later I updated our situation. In 2010 we were spending 880 € a month and the exchange rate was 1€ = $1.24.
In the summer of 2011 I wrote my third post on the subject. At that time we were spending 1005 € a month and the exchange rate was 1€ = $1.44.
After we moved to Normandy I posted another update. In 2013 we were spending 1790 € a month and the exchange rate was 1€ = $1.33.

Today the exchange rate is 1€ = $1.11.





If anyone else in Paris would like to share their cost of living stories, I would love to hear them.






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June 11, 2017

5 (Roman) Things

Roma

1) Monti


Roma

2) Fontana delle Tartarughe


Roma

3) A difficult  choice!


Roma

4) Oculus


Roma

5) The classic


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June 3, 2017

Holiday Rentals In France

La Maison
Our old house in Normandy, which is now a charming rental cottage. We highly recommend this place!


For the first 10 years that we lived here, whenever I was visiting the U.S. and met someone new, they would inevitably ask me where I lived. When I would reply that I lived in France, their response, every single time, would be, "so how long have you lived in Paris?"
I always found that pretty funny. It's like telling someone that you live in the U.S. and they respond by asking how long you've lived in New York City.

But I get it. Paris represents "France" to most foreigners.

However there is much, much more to l'Hexagone than Paris! And over the years we've been fortunate enough to live in a few regions and have enjoyed exploring a good chunk of this beautiful country on many of our vacations.

I know that once you've chosen where to go, picking where to stay can be daunting. The sheer number of holiday rentals out there is crazy, so I thought I would share a handful of places that we know and would recommend around France. We stayed in some as paying guests (and would happily return), a few are owned by friends and one house we lived in for 4 wonderful years.

If you have any more places to recommend, please share them in the comments!

Lunch at JP and Agnès'
This gorgeous home, with a large pool, is located close to the Mediterranean sea in Occitanie. The owners, who are close friends of ours, are renting it out this summer.



A perfect spot for a summer apéro is the terrace of Maison de la Fontaine, a vacation house located in the center of the market town of Nérac, in the south west. It is owned by my good friend, Mardi, of Eat. Live. Travel. Write.


Our gîte
Gîte de la Roche à Vent in the Loire Valley, located between Saumur and Angers. We spent a week in this spacious, comfortable house, which was a fantastic location for exploring the region. 


Another lovely rental, complete with a big swimming pool and a large garden, is located in a medieval town in the south of France.


Can you imagine sitting here with a glass of wine, enjoying this view? Gorgeous! And the owners are winemakers, so a visit to their vineyard and wine tasting is included in the price.


Relais de Camont
Another picturesque spot in Gascony is Kate Hill's home, Camont, where I learned to make cassoulet many years ago. It is exceptionally being rented out for the summer of 2017.


La Charente
Logis la Cabane, located about 20 minutes from Cognac, is a beautiful property with 2 acres of gardens and a heated swimming pool. 



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