Questions raised about living in Champagne

Hello again,

We’ve had a lot of questions about what it’s like to live in Champagne, so I thought I’d do a blog post to answer them for you.  So here goes…

What are the costs of running the house?

There are three charges to pay that are relatively fixed:

Taxe d’Habitation (residents’ tax) which is approximately €80 per month

Tax Fonciere (property tax) again about €80 per month

Assainissement ( Local water cleaning services ) around €430 per year

 Variable running costs

The house is heated by gas, and including electricity,costs approximately  €330 per month

The water supply is metered and costs approximately  €77 per month

Keep in mind that the approximate costs mentioned above include the costs of running the whole house including the B & B.

I work from home. What’s the Internet access like?

There is broadband service to the house which is reliable and comes in at around €36 per month

There is reasonable coverage for mobile (cell phones) which can vary in different parts of the house, but it is generally reliable.  SFR is the best service provider for the village

I don’t have much experience of driving in France. Is there any public transport?

There is little in the way of local transport. A car is necessary. The huge advantage though, is that there is very little traffic and driving around here is still pretty enjoyable.

What are the neighbours like?

In general people are very family-oriented and tend to keep themselves to themselves. Nevertheless we have never experienced anything but kindness and helpfulness from any of the villagers.  We’ve made some great friends here.

The house itself is one of several in the centre of the village with adjoining walls and/or gardens. As happens the world over they occasionally have parties, but these are once or twice a year and not a problem.   The upside of that is whenever we have a party, no-one complains.  The French really do “live and let live”.

How easy it is to set up a business?

This is an area in which you need to take specialist advice but our own experience is that there are two main options:

a)You can register as an auto-entrepreneur (self-employed sole trader).

This does not require any capital investment however there are certain limits to the turnover you are allowed before you have to register as a company. No bookkeeping is required; you simply report your turnover each month or each quarter and pay a percentage of tax on that amount.  At the moment, the flat rate is 15%.

b)If you register as a business you will need to invest a capital amount. In this case complete bookkeeping is needed to record income and expenditure. Tax is paid on the net profit.

The current upper income limit for a B & B is €81,500 per year

Note that a B & B may have up to 5 bedrooms. More than that and it is classified as a hotel which brings with it a lot more regulations and costs.

Will I have to learn to speak French?

That depends on you, and what you want to get out of your experience in France.  You know when you see foreigners all grouped together in your country, how does it make you feel that they don’t speak your language, and yet they are living in your country?   If you want to get the most enjoyment and the best experience of France, then you’ll need to be able to speak a little French.  And when you try to speak French, they will help you, (except in Paris of course!)

Are there many English speaking people living there?

Yes, in fact there’s a small but growing, supportive ex-pat community in the region, and we get together regularly to do silly anglo-saxon things, like carol singing, bonfire night etc. The French think we’re mad, and we probably are!

Do you have some more questions?  Simply drop us an email at yvonne@lesmolyneux.com and we’ll be happy to answer them :-)

 

5 and a half reasons to live in Champagne

When guests visit us here at the B&B, they often ask us what it’s like to live in Champagne, so I’ve put together my 5 top reasons (and a half) to base yourself here:

DSC05269There’s a slower, much less stressful pace of life here.  Everything revolves around nature, the seasons and the rhythm of life.  There’s a natural connection to the earth and you can feel it everywhere.  I feel it when I walk my dog, Pepper in the vineyards and along the forest trails.  You can see the seasons coming and going, and you can almost feel the world turning.  What would it be like to be able to walk  just 5 minutes to the vineyards and 5 minutes to the forest, so you  have no excuse to get out every day and exercise.  It clears the head, relaxes the body and I often have my best ideas while out walking.  How about you?

 

champersmap2champersmap2Champagne vineyards mapChampagne is easy to get to and from, being just 3 hours’ easy driving from Calais, Strasbourg, Brussels, and Luxembourg, and just 45 minutes on the high speed train from Paris.  This is bliss if you want to get to London and back in a day.  Imagine being able to leave home at 7am and be in London for lunch, hit the shops in Oxford Street and be back home sipping a glass of champagne by 10pm!  Transport links are so good, on uncrowded roads, stress-free driving and fantastic trains that run on time.

 

ferme_closed_conge_ferie-Image-INFOSuroit_com_Respect for life and respect for others is something that the French do so well.  What do I mean by this?  I often say that the big difference between the Anglo-Saxon culture and the French culture is that anglo saxons think: first I’ll make money, do business, go to work and then if there’s any time left, I’ll live my life.  The French think: first, I’ll live my life, and then if there’s any time left, I’ll make money, do business, go to work.  The paradox is that the French are one of the most productive countries in the western world.  So what is their secret?  Life comes first, family comes first, making money, doing business, working comes second.  This means that although this can be really annoying to anglo saxons because the shops aren’t open on Sundays, and are often closed at lunch times, and your favourite restaurant in Paris is closed during August,  they have the work/life balance right, and that in itself makes for a less stressed out life for me.  How about you?

Two flutes of Pehu Simonet at The Perching BarChampagne!  Need I say more?  Champagne is everywhere here, and it’s taken like tea in England.  At the school fete, at the dancing gala, at the village fair,  in the mornings, in the afternoons, in the evenings, anywhere, anytime.  Why drink anything else when you can drink champagne?  And you won’t find fancy glasses or fancy labels either.  Any kind of glass will do, even a plastic cup will do, and who cares about the labels?  No-one does, in fact small local producers’ champagnes are far more valuable here in the villages than the big international names, that we all know and love.  If you love champagne, there couldn’t be a better place to live, honestly!  And with over 5000 small champagne producers to visit and taste, you could be here for a long time!

Sunset in Champagne 2The weather!  Yes, I know that the English always talk about the weather, so I couldn’t write about life in Champagne without mentioning the weather…. Because of the distance from the sea, the weather in Champagne is a lot more settled than in the UK so when the sun comes, it tends to stay all day.  I know this is a strange concept for all the Brits, but it’s true, the sun can stay out all day here and remain out for several days in a row, sometimes turning into weeks of uninterrupted sunshine!  The temperature in summer can reach into the high 30s, and it is indeed glorious.  On the other hand, because of the distance from the sea, the weather here is quite settled (I think I mentioned that already) and that means in winter it can get very cold for long periods.  Snow often comes in late November, and can hang around for days and sometimes longer, and then we often get more snow in January and February, but life is not interrupted by the weather.  The local mayor gets his tractor out with his snow-plough attachment and the roads are clear quick as a flash.  No drama.

So that’s five great reasons to be living in Champagne!  So what’s the half?  There’s a fabulous B&B for sale right now just waiting for you to snap up ;-)  Check out the details by CLICKING HERE

See you soon in Champagne?

 

Champagne Harvest 2012 is coming soon


 
How would you like to join us here in Champagne and experience the highlight of the year – The Harvest?  We’ve put together a programme so you can do just that!

Between the 20th and 30th September, you have the opportunity of becoming part of the harvesting team for one day,  picking the grapes, following them to the “pressoir”, tasting the juice as it comes directly from the crushed grapes, and experiencing the atmosphere and excitement of this special time.

Your day will begin at one of our favourite champagne maker’s “vendangeoir” where you’ll pick up your secateurs and be taken into the vineyards with the team, where you’ll begin picking.  You’ll then follow the process back at the “pressoir” and witness first hand how it’s all done champagne-style.

A traditional harvester’s lunch and some serious champagne tasting is included, and all you need to do now is to book yourself a place by clicking here.

The package includes:

  • Two nights’ B&B accommodation at Les Molyneux
  • Dinner on your arrival night with champagne and wine
  • A full day out with one of our favourite champagne makers

Prices are 355 euros for one person and 520 euros for two people sharing a room.

Here’s what you need to do now:

  1. Simply Click Here to book your accommodation at Les Molyneux
  2. Choose two nights’ between the 20th and 30th September
  3. Put a note for us in the Comments Box of the reservation form that you want to come on the Harvest Special

That’s it!  We’ll then organise your day’s harvesting, and be in touch with you again very soon.

Places are limited, so hurry and book now and we’ll see you soon in Champagne!

Yvonne

x

Champagne Stories from the Vineyards

What a priviledge it is to be able to live and work in Champagne!  I am in awe of the beauty of the landscape and the work and toil of the people every single day.  My drive to the supermarket is through vineyards owned by such luminaries as Moet et Chandon, Taittinger, Veuve Clicquot and I marvel at their visions which began almost 3 centuries ago.

I am indeed lucky.

But life wasn’t always bubbly in Champagne. After the devastation of the phylloxera epidemic during the late 1800s and the wine growers’ revolts in the early 1900s, the emergence of champagne as we know it today began.  But life was still tough, and many farmers were very poor.  So much so that over the years, many of their offspring left the bubbly trade in search of adventure elsewhere.

One of those sons is our friend Christian Briard, who after having explored life without bubbles, has returned to his roots and taken up the baton in his grandfather’s champagne business, Champagne Christian Briard, in the Marne Valley.

Christian explains what lead him to where he is now in this interesting article and I encourage you to read it here

 

On the Pilgrim Trail

Running a B&B is a great way to meet new people, and the thing is, we never know who is going to show up next, and that’s exciting.

Verzy is situated on not just one, but two of the great Pilgrim Trails which start in various locations in northern Europe and either lead to Santiago de Compostela in northern Spain, or the Via Francigena to Rome in Italy.

People take this pilgrimage for a variety of reasons and not always religious.  Some are walking for a charity or in the memory of someone they’ve lost, or some are doing just because they can. But they all come with a story, and we love to hear their stories.

Some embark on this adventure alone and some with a partner or friend.  Some do the whole thing in one go which takes around 3 months, and some do it a couple of weeks a year, spread out over several years.

Some plan their overnight stays and some don’t.  Some simply knock on the door hoping to find room at the inn, and some have their ipads or other mobile devices, keeping in touch with the real world while on their travels, and have all their lodgings pre-booked in advance. Some are blogging about their adventure and staying connected during the whole journey and some completely cut themselves off to focus on the journey itself and the inevitable silence of being alone.

Some are travelling on a budget, and some are doing it “in style”.  Whoever they are, we welcome them and offer them great accommodation, a good meal and a fond farewell the next morning.

Bunjee jumping in Verzy!

With the torrential April showers hopefully behind us now, we can turn our attention to what’s happening in May in Champagne.

May is the month of the brocantes – those street markets which sell cast offs and collectors items, featuring everything from used tyres (?) to champagne caps.  Verzy’s brocante was last weekend, and needless to say I didn’t buy anything.

There’s a brocante every weekend now in several villages in the region, and if you like milling around bric-a-brac and looking for a bargain, then don’t miss, come on down.

The highlight of events in Verzy (not to mention the Summer Dance Gala on the 16th June, where yours truly will be dancing!) is the Fete Patronale which is happening on the last weekend of May.

I’m really excited about this because last year it was an absolute hoot on the Sunday afternoon.  We were drawn into the music and entertainment of the drag artists singing and dancing in their luminous outfits and unbelievable wigs.  Sipping champagne in the sunshine with friends and enjoying the ambience of the real France was incredible, and this year promises to be even more fun with the opportunity to participate in bunjee jumping.  Needless to say again, I won’t be jumping, but you can!

Join us if you can, we’re looking forward to meeting you in Champagne!

The French are rude!

Living and working in France has and still is one of the most enriching experiences of my life.  I love it here!  I even left it once, only to return “home” as soon as I could.  Why?  I find the French philosophy on life refreshing and it just makes sense to me.

Here in Champagne, the people are warm and friendly, and there is a sense of community, that long-forgotten feeling that used to prevail in the homeland, the UK before it all went wrong.  The French are attached to the earth, the “terroir”, the planet in a way that makes me feel safe and secure, and even loved.

You can imagine my surprise then, when friend and business partner Marion Ryan sent me this article this morning.  Apparently the French have been voted the most rude country to visit for tourists!

Yes, yes, I know that sometimes they are rude, but isn’t everybody?   But what I’ve learned about the French during my many years among them, is that it’s NOT intentional.  My daughter describes them as “direct” and that’s a good description.  They don’t put up with nonsense, poor service, poor food, rules that don’t make sense to them, working harder, working longer (remember they only work 35 hours a week!)  and their lives are much more important than any commercial transaction.

There is a respect here for each other, with the essential “Bonjour Madame or Monsieur” whenever you meet someone in the street.  Eye contact is normal and people smile.  Old people are respected and children are cherished.  People help each other in a distinctly and guarded French way, but nevertheless the support is there.

Of course, I may have to eat my hat if Marine Le Pen wins the next election! God help us!

Reiki and Champagne

I’ve just received the monthly newsletter from the Tourist Office in Epernay (pity it’s only in French) and I’ve noticed that there is a “Reiki Conference” happening on the 31st March.  (The Tourist Office’s website is undergoing some maintenance at the moment, otherwise I’d put a link in here for you).

I know that alternative health treatments are pretty popular around the world, but so far, in France I’ve yet to discover much at all. In fact one of my English students whispered that that sort of thing isn’t welcome in France. And I’m not surprised. The French are pretty wedded to their mainstream medical system, and anything natural or slightly “out there” would probably be shrugged off.

In fact, many of the “spa” treatments the rest of the world has to pay for privately, are offered on the French national health system.  A good friend of mine recently had a heart operation and he was sharing with me recently, that the option to take a “spa” treament was part of his recovery package!

But now, we have a Reiki conference taking place at the stunning Hotel Royal Champagne on the hills outside Epernay on the 31st March, starting at 4pm. I’m certainly going to be there. Anyone else?

Fete Henri IV in Aÿ

If you’re planning to come to Champagne this summer, then you won’t want to miss the Bi-annual Fete Henri IV in Aÿ (pronounced aye)

Aÿ used to be the capital of Champagne, over 400 years ago, and at that time was most famous for its still wines.  It’s still home to some of the big well-known champagne houses,  such as Bollinger, and some of the best grapes of the region are to be found in its vineyards.

The best time to visit Aÿ is every other year (even years)  when they hold the Fete Henri IV.  In 2012 it’s on the 6th/7th/8th July.   Many of the champagne houses large and small, open their courtyards, gardens and doors to visitors, where you can sip a glass or two and relax.  It’s a lot of fun.

If you come to the Fete, you’ll be able to walk in and taste some of the little known gems of Ay plus enjoy the atmosphere of a typical champenois event, where the music plays, the food is plentiful and the champagne flows.

Champagne, Institutions And Why Don’t We Listen?

Just got back home from a local networking event in Epernay, near to where I live in Champagne.  The networking event was the first “Speed Networking” event held in Epernay, and I must say I was surprised and impressed to get an invitation.  At least they’re trying, I thought.

The focus of the event was twofold.

First, to bring all us operators in the tourist industry together to share ideas, meet new people and find the odd JV.  I thought this was a very good idea and quietly congratulated the new Director of the Tourist Office.

Secondly to unveil their new iniatiative on getting us all grouped together under yet another banner “Vignobles et Decouvertes”.  We’re already with “Gites de France”, “Tourisme Marne”, “CDT” to name but a few, all of which are supposed to give us credibility and assure the tourists.  And maybe it does, I really don’t know.  All I know is that I have paid handsomely to belong to these institutions in the past and I really can’t recall how much extra business they have brought me, but it’s not a lot.

We were told that the worthies had been down to Burgundy to see what they were doing down there and saw said V&D in action and thought it might be a good idea to do that in Champagne.

And it might be, but my point is “how will this help our visitors, those precious souls who come from far and wide to Champagne, with their expectations, their dreams and their money”  and I’m not sure I can see the answer to that question right now.

So often in business, and I’m as guilty as the next person, we focus on what we want or what we think our customers want, not really listening to their deepest desires and goals.  I wonder how much real research has been done into what visitors really want when they come to Champagne.  When I say real research, I mean asking good questions and then listening to the response without judgement.

I don’t think anyone would have revealed a deep desire to have a label “Vignobles et Decouvertes”  do you?