Our little French Village

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We are well and truly ensconced in our little French village. We have been here for almost 3 months and are loving it. Marseillan is supposedly the third oldest village in France. Only Agde (about 5km away) and Marseille are older. It is located on the shore of the Etang de Thau, a large estuary right on the Mediterranean.

The Etang du Thau is home to a huge shellfish cultivation industry and Marseillan is reliant on that for a large part of its existence. Plump fresh oysters and mussels can be purchased from street vendors along with a bottle of Picpoul de Pinet, the locally produced white wine in the region, for a delightful cheap and tasty indulgence.

Tourism is also very important to the town and region. The beaches of the Mediterranean are only 5 km away. The beaches are nice, but like many parts of this region a rather tacky beachside development of cheap bars, cheap restaurants and cheap theme parks has sprung up. Unfortunately, cheap means cheap and nasty, not cheap and cheery.

Marseillan has  a beautiful little port and it is the epicentre of life in the town. There are numerous restaurants,  bars, oyster vendors and a vermouth distillery, Noilly Prat along the port.

Marseillan also has 300 sunny days a year. One of them was today, so I took the opportunity to get a few snaps before sunset.

Marseillan Port 15 Marseillan Port 12 Richemer 02 LR Marseillan Port 17 Marseillan Port 16 Marseillan Port 09 Marseillan Port 08 Marseillan Petanque LR Marseillan Buildings 07 LR Marseillan Buildings 04 LR Marseillan Buildings 03 LR Marseillan Buildings 01 LR Marine Bar 01 LR FX Marseillan - Delicatessen LR FX Marseillan Port 07 Marseillan Port 10

Shucks!

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Our village Marseillan is on the edge of the Etang de Thau which supplies around 10% of France’s oysters. There are numerous coquillage vendors in the village which sell fresh oysters, mussels, clams, snails and other exotic slimy sea things. We only realised the other day why they are all closed during the day and only open in the later afternoon/evening. They harvest during the day and sell at night, guaranteeing the freshest oysters.

We bought a dozen juicy fat oysters and two dozen equally fat and juicy mussels. A quick youtube lesson on how to shuck an oyster and we were on our way. We gratineed the mussels with garlic, parmesan, crumbed baguette, cream and parsley and also did a few oysters the same way. To finish off, a few oysters natural and some good old aussie oysters kilpatrick, all washed down with a chardonnay from a vineyard beside the lake. Magnifique!

Battling French Officialdom

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At the start of September we moved back down to Languedoc for some much needed sunshine and blue sky. We intend to stay here for at least 12 months. After that we will look at our options for staying longer in France.

Changing location meant that we had to notify the relevant authorities of our change of address. First up was to notify immigration of our new address. A quick check on their website said we had 8 days to do it (oops, we moved 20 days ago and we needed to make an appointment (for each or us) online at the sous-prefecture in Beziers. Ok, get online, made the appointment, now to assemble the required documents.

  • Copy of ID, passports – check
  • Copy of visa – check
  • 3 passport photos – check
  • proof of new address – check
  • 4 (why 4 I don’t know) stamped, self addressed envelopes – check

We roll up to our scheduled appointment. Paige goes in first, I go in shortly after with a different interviewer. Lots of very fast french spoken (to us). The gist of all of that was that we do not need to notify them of our change in address and to come back in November when we want to renew our visa. Seems they don’t really care that they don’t know where we are. We are probably the least of their worries as I’m sure there are millions of people in France that they do not even know are there in the first place. But it once again highlights the discrepancy between policy and practice in French officialdom.

Second change was to notify the authorities responsible for car registrations of our change of abode. We could do this online. Just create an account with the online register and change our address. ok, did the first part, changed the address, all seemed ok. Logged out and got an email that basically said “Fail – go to the sous-prefecture. Ok, check online, we need to make an appointment like last time and collect a pile of documents.

  • proof of new address – check
  • complete a form – check
  • 1 stamped, self addressed envelope – check

So almost running late for our appointment, we arrived just in time to find that we had to take a ticket. Ok, but we have a booked appointment? We take our ticket (Number 56) and head off to the carte gris (registration) section to find a crowd of people waiting. Ticket number 20 was the current active job. Yes, at the bottom of out ticket it also said that (in tiny print) that there were 36 others ahead of us. Ninety minutes later, ticket number 55 is called, followed by ticket number 57! WTF! We quickly interjected and managed to get ticket number 56 a look in. Our man at the counter seemed pleasant enough, we had watched his style during the last 36 tickets and he seemed that he would be a reasonable frenchman to deal with.

He didn’t want to know about the appointment, but wanted a copy of our ID and registration. Hang on, they weren’t on the official list of required documents? Luckily we had copies of said documents (coming out of our ears). We are learning fast!

Our man quickly detected that we couldn’t understand a word he said and spoke very s-l-o-w-l-y, in French, which makes all the difference, not! Well a little bit, thankfully.

He didn’t need the envelope and said gave us 3 pieces of paper to take to the cashier down the hall. He did say the change was free, but we needed to take our 3 pieces of paper to the cashier anyway. The cashier took our 3 pieces of paper and gave us a single sheet of paper and a receipt for 0,00 euros. She said we would receive a sticker in the mail with our new address to stick on our carte gris. Don’t know why they couldn’t do that then.

So now the French know where to send the speeding fines to the immigrants of no known address.

Our next appointment with the French officials is in November when we attempt to renew our visa for another 12 months. The list of required documentation is huge. I’m sure we will make a copy of every document we have that can help our cause, just in case, but probably we will only need a few of the required documents. Based on our experience, we are sure practice will be very different to policy.

Having said all that, the French public service officials have been wonderful. Accommodating, friendly and patient. Certainly, so far, practice had been preferable to policy.

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