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Helen's Achievements


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  1. I agree about many restaurants in France. Typically we find that the restaurants locally in Normandy are very traditional and somewhat unimaginative in their cuisine.We may be fortunate in the UK that we have many good pubs locally serving excellent, varied and good value food but to be honest we prefer to eat out in the UK than in France (not that we can afford to do either very often!) It gets a little embarrassing when our French neighbours ask us, somewhat smugly, if we find the food in France much better than in the Uk. We tend to politely answer yes, but make a mild comment about how much British food has improved in recent years!
  2. We took out our euro mortgage four years ago (so at the peak of the market and before any extra safeguards etc kicked in, so there may be differences now). We found that most French mortgages were offered on the basis of fixed interest rates, but with no flexibility to change the amount paid each month, pay off early or switch providers, without a large penalty. We managed to find a variable rate, more flexible mortgage. Whilst the interest rate varies our payments are fixed, so the rate of repayment is currently increased due to the drop in interest rates (although it could go the other way of course). All the French people we talked to about it seemed surprised that we were doing this but it suited us as it means we can move / pay it off quicker if we want to do so. With the wonderful benefit of hindsight, we are glad we didn't fix the interest rate at the time, but wish we had taken out a sterling mortgage in the UK for it (though at the time that seemed to be just adding complexity to the process). But we weren't to know what would happen - and as they always say, the past is not a guide to the future... We did end up using (and paying for) an overseas mortgage broker in the UK to help us negotiate our way through the system. That is out of character for us - we are normally quite happy dealing with bureaucracy and financial issues - but it proved to be a good decision. She helped sort out all sorts of minor (and less minor) issues along the way and was able to offer a lot of very helpful advice. Good luck whatever you decide to do - despite the change in the exchange rate etc we have never regretted for one second our decision to buy a holiday home in France.
  3. I think you'd do better on The Student Room forum - they have a forum about international study and some of the posts on other topics are from students who've studied at the schools you are looking at. http://www.thestudentroom.co.uk/forumdisplay.php?f=116 You will also find plenty of posts from people who are not d'un certain age and who won't be phased by your lack of punctuation! (Not sure if I've posted the link right but I too am of a certain age and haven't tried to do this before!) Good luck! Helen
  4. I support the Red Cross, for obvious reasons given my previous post! Because it works through local volunteers working for their national society in each country (Red Cross or Red Crescent), they have all the local experience and knowledge to know how best to help. You can give on line via either the British Red Cross or the Croix Rouge Francaise.
  5. That's a really kind thought and one that many of us share, I'm sure. I worked for the British Red Cross during the 2004 tsunami. I remember many people phoning up asking how they could send goods but we always explained that we only took money, not goods. This was for two reasons - first, the transport costs and challenges of getting the right things to the right places made it a much less cost-effective way to give, and secondly because giving money means that it be used to buy the goods in the local economy, which helps the country and local businesses recover. When you give money to a specific disaster the money goes to help that disaster, not their general running costs. Sorry this doesn't answer your original question - hope you don't mind. Helen
  6. Thanks - that sounds reassuringly the same as we do with our system in England. We wondered if the pressure in the system would prevent the valves from closing properly (or even at all) but presumably not. New bathroom here we come! Helen
  7. A couple of years ago, at considerable expense, we got the local heating company to put loads of antigel into our heating system (fioul-fired). We now want to remove one radiator in order to re-tile the bathroom wall on which it is sitting. In England we are well used to removing a single radiator to decorate and then topping the circuit up again when we replace it. But is it possible to do the same thing in a closed system such as we have in France? We really don't want to drain down the whole system, given the cost of the antigel. Thanks Helen
  8. I would question the Amazon marketing for 3G. Do you really need to be able to download books anytime, anywhere on the go? In my experience, shopping for books on the Amazon site on the computer is a lot easier than trying to use the Kindle directly. If you know precisely which book you want, then ordering from the Kindle is OK but if you want to read reviews, consider pricing etc then the Kindlestore on Amazon wins hands down. So if you have access to WiFI at home, then I don't think the 3G is necessary. You can always buy a few books ahead of time if you are going away. Of course if you are going to use the browser on the go, then that's a different matter, but again the user interface isn't that great. I'm a complete Kindle convert for reading books but I wouldn't see it as an alternative to a computer.
  9. I've found that the exchange rate for a one-off transfer via the internet with HiFX is very competitive, especially if you can transfer a minimum of £5000. It's certainly much better than the rate for a regular monthly transfer. The internet transfer is also very transparent - you can see the effect of fluctuations in the exchange rate on a near-real-time basis.
  10. We've got a residence secondaire, 135sqm, stone built in Normandy. We've been with Hiscox but they suddenly shot up in price this year and so we are now with Schofields for £327 pa. No mention in the policy (and I've scoured it!) of any requirements about either shutters or draining the heating system in winter / leaving the heating on.
  11. When we were buying 3 years ago, we had two offers from the same bank, (UCB) one that allowed for inclusion of notaire's fees in the total sum, and one that didn't. There were slight variations in the terms and conditions so you need to consider the pros and cons. Of course the situation may well have changed since then. But it was certainly possible in the recent past, so worth asking. Good luck!
  12. Many thanks - I should have thought of that myself. Unfortunately, as I like to be able to use several rings on the hob and two ovens at once (Sunday lunch!) it looks from the spec as though it would need far more power supply than we will be inclined to pay for. Guess we'd better stick to the gas hob and think again about the oven. Helen
  13. We have a pretty new, full size electric fan double oven and hob in the UK that we don't need and a basic electric convection oven with gas hob that both need replacing in France. We have a 6kW monophase electricity supply and are wondering if this would be suitable for the English oven? We have a dishwasher but no freezer and our heating is oil fired. However, we notice that the lights dim temporarily from time to time, usually when another appliance (eg the oven) starts - which is what set us wondering. Any advice would be welcome before we start looking for a French electrician. Thanks
  14. Helen


    The first time we saw deer in our garden, a week after moving in, we called the children to see them and told them to be quiet so as not to scare them off.....a week later we realised the error of our ways! Whatever barriers and deterrents we've tried they still get in. So after many years of frustration we've given up trying to keep them out and now stick to plants recommended as deer resistant - the Royal Horticultural Society has a list here   They aren't all guaranteed but at least we've had some flowers this summer.
  15. [quote user="Cathy"]Are schools in the UK being automatically closed?  If so, what are the criteria for closure? [/quote] No, schools aren't being closed automatically in the UK, though there could be individual closures if, for example, so many children and/or teachers were off sick in a particular school that it wasn't viable to keep it open.  Just the same as normal flu seasons.  Some special schools might close more pro-actively, if they had a large number of pupils with other health conditions that made them particularly vulnerable, but that is a special situation. It will be interesting to see if there is a surge now the schools have gone back - history would suggest there will be.
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