Our French approval

The second part of our official paperwork had to be completed once we arrived here in France, so as soon as we arrived in the south of France we lodged our paperwork in the Montpellier OFII office and awaited appointments for our medical checkup & final visa stamp.  That didn’t take long at all and we were summoned in on 1st Feb (premier fevrier).

Off we headed for our 1.30 appointments thinking we’d get in there ten or fifteen minutes early to avoid any rush, but no, we discovered that everyone for the afternoon is booked in at 1.30pm and in fact because of the lunchtime closing hours, the office doesn’t even reopen until 1.30, and not a minute before! They even switch off the elevator until that time so you can’t go up to the office until they are good and ready. This is the French way.

Once in (with an assorted bunch of other people) it was a straightforward process: get weighed, measured, eye chart check and list of vaccinations with the nurse, chest xray with another nurse, in to see the doctor with the xrays in hand & answer some quick questions (I think she was a little surprised that two people our age don’t have any medications, no high blood pressure, etc etc), then in to see the official of the day who puts the “vignette” (or another colourful sticker) in the passports. Done. We were out of there by 3pm and on our way home to celebrate – we are now accepted for 12 months and our passports allow us to come in & out of the country.

Food glorious food

I don’t know if I’ve mentioned it, but there are another Australian couple here in our village who have done what we are doing, but have lived here in the one place for their whole year. They are about to go back home in a few weeks. We had been in contact with them on the net before arriving here (thank goodness for other travellers & their blogs full of information – we knew what to expect for the medicals) and met them in person soon after arriving. They were very helpful in giving us some tips to start with and introducing us to some of the locals, mainly the new owners of one of the café/bars in town. After arriving back home with our passports complete, it was off to their place for a celebratory drink & nibbles.

Now it’s our turn to have them over, so we’ve been busy today planning & cooking up a French storm. Well actually let me backtrack a little, because since settling in here we have cooked a variety of dishes, fresh soups, boeuf bourguignon, to mention a few and I have even tried out the local flours & successfully made a batch of scones and some rather nice crepes.

First batch of scones

We celebrated Australia Day with a lovely cook-up by Rod, roast lamb & veges, followed by home made pavlova. And he did a better job than those Kiwis on My Kitchen Rules! In order to be good ambassadors for our country, we started the evening by walking up to one of the local bars to let the locals know that it was “our” day, before coming home to a nice warm house & feasting on these delights:

Our Australia Day roast lamb & veges

and a delicious home-made pavlova to finish off

So for our first entertaining effort, we put our heads together to plan the menu: entrée will be a warm camembert salad, which consists of slices of garlic-grilled baguette topped with tomato & camembert, grilled & served with some green leaves. This is to be followed by a main course of Coc au Champagne (chicken in champagne, of course) and a classic French apple Tarte Tatin for dessert, served with crème fraîche.  Since I’ve decided to concentrate my culinary efforts this year on learning some French pastry cooking, this was as good a place as any to start. A good menu for a crisp, cold, night.

Rod's chicken & vegetables marinating in champagne & herbs

We had to take turns in the kitchen, with Rod marinating the chicken in champagne, then me making a start on my tarte pastry, making caramel sauce, baking the apples in the caramel & then putting it all together & baking again. Then the kitchen was back over to Rod for the the entrée & main preparations.  Mmmm , there were delicious smells coming out of the kitchen in no time.

Starting the pastry for the Tarte Tatin

Rolling out the pastry ready to chill

Starting the caramel...

Apples going into caramel for baking...

Apples baked, now for the pastry base...

the base was a little bit big - shouldn't have tucked it all in!

Mmmmm, chicken smells good!

Table set and wine decanted in advance

Guests have arrived, time to get the entree grilled (good work Rod!)

The food was all delicious, our guests seemed to enjoy every course and with plenty of French champagne and vin rouge to wash it all down, the night was definitely a success. Unfotunately the free-flowing vin also meant we forgot to take final pics of all of the finished dishes (and us with our guests!) Next time, I promise, but here is one of the tarte tatin

The finished Tarte Tatin

So far we are enjoying all of the extra time we have to spend in the kitchen and with a current cold-snap happening, we are doing a bit more of that. I’m sure there’ll be another cooking entry before too long.

Au revoir pour maintenant, a bientot!

Paige xo