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 :-)

 

Tt le mondeThe dates for the champagne harvest for 2013 have been announced, and it starts in Verzy on the 4th October for Chardonnay grapes and the 6th October for Pinot Noir grapes.

And you can come and get involved if you want to experience the atmosphere and the excitement of the highlight of the year here in Champagne.

Your day starts with a trip out to the vineyards and armed with a pair of secateurs, you’ll be instructed on what to pick, how to pick and where to put the grapes when you’ve picked!

And then, off to the press house to enjoy the process of crushing the grapes and watching the juice being extracted, followed by a tasting of the juice straight from the press.

Lunch follows where you’ll enjoy 3 champagnes and a typical harvesters lunch with the team.  Would you like to come?

Click here to find out more and we’re looking forward to seeing you in Champagne for the 2013 harvest ;-)

 

 

B&B moments in Champagne

What do you do when you’re driving up a narrow street and someone has left their car parked so you can’t get past?  Do you honk your horn and wait patiently, and still no-one comes?  Or do you get in the car, seeing that the keys are in it, and move it so you can pass?  That’s exactly what Nicolas Rainon did this week, when I was invited to experience an “Oenovasion Vendanges” – a Harvesting Discovery Day!  That was just the beginning of an eventful and amazing day.

We climbed into his Landrover Discovery at 10AM and then found ourselves driving along the disused railway line called the CBR which used to connect all of the villages along the Montagne de Reims until it was finally taken up in the 60s.  Then he stopped while we admired the view, and then he advanced literally over the cliff!  I must confess I didn’t look!  And then we were in the vineyards literally, driving along grass tracks while he was explaining how to tell the difference between the different vines, and how in fact 50million years ago, the chalky terrain now known as Champagne was created. Nicolas is a mine of information about this region.

Next we climbed 102 steps up the lighthouse in Verzenay while he explained just how small each parcel of vines can be and why each grape farmer must spread his parcels far apart to avoid localised adverse weather conditions and complete destruction of his livelihood.  It was all truly fascinating.

After a hard morning’s study, we then pitched up at his wife, Marie-Noelle’s champagne house where we were treated to a harvester’s lunch and 4 matching champagnes.  Marie Noelle is passionate about the skill of matching champagne and food and is in fact, teaching this skill to their 6 year old daughter, Marie Amelie, by never mixing flavours on the same plate of food.

Then came the hard part.  Out into the vineyards we were taken by Nicolas, this time by the road (!) and we each took our secateurs and a bucket and were given instructions on how to pick the grapes.  When we had all picked a bucket-full, we emptied them into a large box, and then followed the boxes to the pressoir, where we witnessed the pressing of the grapes we had picked.

The press is so sophisticated, that it only presses the mature grapes and leaves everything else un-pressed, even the ladybirds!

The results of our hard work will not be known for at least 4 years, but I’ve no doubt that it will be an amazing cuvee that everyone will be talking about for years to come!

Happy days :-)

 

If you’d like to know how you too can be part of this exciting event on the Champagne calendar in 2012, email now at yvonne@yvonnehalling.com before all the places are taken.  Looking forward to hearing from you soon :-)

 

Veuve Clicquot’s Mansion in Verzy

I was out and about with my dog today, so I took three short videos on the lovely mansion here in Verzy, built by Mme Clicquot in the mid 1800s for entertaining her very important clients from the European aristocracy. It’s still used to today to entertain VIP clients, by invitation only. Take a look at the videos here… Enjoy!

Sexual confusion in the vineyards

This is a short video about how the grape farmers stop the rot caused by two particular butterflies.  They attach small brown plastic pods to the wires which support the vines, inside of which is the sexual hormones of the female butterflies.  The emission of the hormones confuses the male butterflies and so they can’t find the eggs to fertilise!  I thought that was so clever when it was explained to me by Isabelle Corbeaux of Champagne Pierre Deville and Veronique Lallement of Champagne Lallement, two lovely French ladies who are part of my English class here in Verzy. 

You can see what I’m talking about in this video below.

Enjoy!

Out and about in Reims

Today was such a glorious day again, I decided to shoot some video of Reims.  The new Tramway is now operational, and transporting people around this historic city, easily and smoothly.  The cathedral looks fantastic having just been cleaned (well some of it, at least) and so I wanted to showcase the city here.  

Reims is the only place in the world to have three UNESCO World Heritage sites, the magnificent gothic cathedral, the Palais du Tau and the Basilique St. Remi.  

The cathedral was first constructed in 1097 and was used to crown the Kings of France, before they did away with all that during the French Revolution! 

It was originally a Roman town, and when they began excavations for the tramway, the work was considerably delayed due to archeologists having to be informed whenever an artefact was discovered, and there were many! 

If you’ve been to Reims in the last few years, you’ll know how disruptive the works were, but now it’s all done, I hope you’ll agree that it was worth it.  The city looks lovely now and well worth a visit.   

I hope you enjoy these videos.  Please do leave a comment and let me know what you think of Reims.

More reasons to visit Champagne

Since returning to Champagne just over a year ago, I have been surprised at the amount of development that’s been going on in the region.  Reims is expanding, growing and bringing itself into the 21st century with style and elegance, and it’s a joy to watch. 

First the arrival of the high speed train TGV in 2007, then a new southern bypass around the city, and then lots of new businesses springing up and the opening of  IKEA.  Next is the official inauguration of the smart new tramway in the city centre on the 16th April.

It’s buzzing, thriving and upbeat.  A refreshing change from other recession-hit areas. 

Take a look at this great article in the Guardian, then come on down and see for yourself.

Enjoy!

Festivals in Champagne

Last Sunday, the sun was shining and the sky was blue, so we headed off to the nearby village of Ay, which was more prominent than Epernay back in the days of Henri IV.  He favoured many of the champagne houses there, especially Bollinger.  So every other year, even numbers only, the residents of Ay hold a festival in his honour.  Here are some pictures of the day.

It was quite warm, but thankfully someone thought to give the horses some shade under the parasol!

Many of the champagne houses opened their doors to the tourists, and here at Bollinger, there was al fresco dining to the tune of a small group of musicians.

And lunch at Champagne Ed. Brun was very lively with a fantastic jazz band playing while we ate.

Put it in your diary for 2012, it’s a great day out

Walking in the forest

It was such a beautiful day yesterday, that I decided to take my dog up into the forest and take some pictures of ‘Les Faux’ the twisted beech trees that only grow here in Verzy, near Hanover in Germany and near Malmo in Sweden.  Hope you like the pictures.  I took some video too, and once I figure out how to upload it, I’ll do it!   Just one of the great things we can do here in Verzy.