France Telecom can provide
fixed and mobile phones and services, as well as broadband internet
France Telecom operates a "last number"
service, similar to that existing in the UK. To find out the number of the last person to call you,
dial 3131. (However, if the last caller left a message on your
answerphone, then 3131 doesn't retain the person's number.)
Another service - already familiar to British phone users - is AutoRappel:
if you dial a number within France (but not a mobile), and it's engaged, you
have the option of leaving your call in by pressing 5 when asked, and you
will then be called back when your correspondent's number is free.
Incidentally, there have been slight adjustments - the addition of the prefix
10 - to the usual numbers for fault repair (now 1013) and FT local consumer
information (now 1014).
Like the UK, France now has telephone service providers who will give you
very cheap rates on calling abroad and on national calls within France. I am currently using Primus
Telecom for my national and overseas calls from France; for helpful advice in English, you can email telecoms
consultant called Andy Martin <firstname.lastname@example.org>
who can get it up and running for you. The cost of your calls is debited from
your French bank account monthly.
Again, as in the UK, France Telecom have fiendishly
complicated discount packages. "Primaliste" is the
equivalent of BT's "Friends-&-Family - though FT does at least work
out for you whichare your most
frequently-called numbers and then charges accordingly.
Nowadays most UK mobiles (even pay-as-you-go ones) will work abroad.
However, the call charges tend to be more expensive - and even incoming
calls are charged for - so do be sparing about how much you use it. It’s
usually better to communicate by using text messages – at least they cost
nothing to receive while you are in France…
A mobile phone, in French, is a portable (they use
the word mobile to mean a domestic cordless phone). French
pay-as-you-go mobile phones use an annoying system whereby, if you haven’t
used up the credit on your card within a certain period, you lose it! (And
that period varies with the price of the card you bought.)I originally thought it would be worth
having one during my Vendée visits, to be able to make cheaper calls within France, but this feature drove me mad; along with the many gaps
in coverage. So I stick with my UK pay-as-you-go phone, and get my friends to send me texts
TIP:LIN SMIT WRITES
I've recently bought myself a sim4travel sim card. It cost
about £15 and gives you a UK
mobile phone number. I bought mine through one of the mobile
phone shops in High Wycombe and got a £5
credit put on. Calls aren't that cheap - I think 25p/min.
with texts at 25p each, BUT you don't get charged for receiving calls/texts
and the rate is pretty universal across the EU. There is no time
limit on the credit, and you top your credit up on-line, using a credit
card. I find this useful because I've usually got access to the
internet when I'm away and it saves having to buy whatever top-up cards are
available wherever you are.Information on www.sim4travel.net.
If you already have a fixed
phone line, and you want to see what broadband services are available from
various providers you can check out the Degrouptest
site to find out. Just type in your French phone number to find out your
various options. There
are various service providers, such as wanadoo, and tele2.
Should you want to pick up your e-mail from some computer
other than your own in an emergency, and you don't happen to have a Hotmail or other web-based account, or
your service provider doesn’t offer a “webmail” service, here is a handy way
to do it without having to re-set anything on someone else's machine.
Once online, go to http://www.mail2web.com/
then, when requested to do so, type in your normal e-mail address and
password - and wait. After a moment or two you are sent a list of all the
mail that is waiting for you, and - while on-line - you can read, save or
delete it. (NB You can't open attachments, though.) With mail2web, you can
even reply to emails (though you have to stay on-line while doing so).
Anything that you do not delete will stay out there in space, ready to appear
on your home computer the next time to pick up your emails in your usual way.
If you need permanent, cheap e-mail and dialup web access
from France, there are now quite a lot of French free service
providers that use local numbers. This is a slow option, and if you are
expecting large files to be sent to you you are probably better to use one of
the local cybercentres.
If you ever have to dictate your e-mail address to a
French person - or if they dictate one to you - it's worth remembering that
the @ sign is called, in French, "arobase" (pronounced "arrow-baz");
the French for "dot" is "point" ("pwung")
and for "hyphen" is "trait-d'union" ("tray
doon-yong"). Click here
for a glossary of other French computer terms (explained in French
The Vendée boasts that it is the first département to offer
broadband/ADSL/"haut débit" to everyone in the county. Hmm.
From my own experience, I can tell you it isn’t equally fast everywhere; my
enquiries for a broadband connexion have revealed that I can only have 0.5Mb
at my cottage – though others can benefit from 2Mb.
WiFi hotspots have
burst out all over the Vendée since June 2009.Most are located near a tourist office, and
marked with a distinctive red and white sign (left).If you log on at one of these with your
computer you can enjoy free access to predetermined Vendée-specific sites
(i.e. the tourist office where you are, the weather, travel-route planning
But for just 1 euro per 24-hour period, you can do all the surfing, emailing etc that you want. I couldn’t
believe it would be that simple, but it took me just a minute or two to
register on-line using the WiFi point, and then to pay 1 euro by UK credit card.
Carte Pass Vendée
Amid the plethora of “pass tourisme” – those documents covering the tourist
attractions of one particular area that allow you a discount on the others
once you have had the first name stamped – is a new one of more interest to
residents that to passing visitors.
Called the “Carte Pass
Vendée” it costs 25€, and admits as many times as you like to all of the
Conseil Général’s cultural sites:
- La Chabotterie
- Le Haras at La Roche
- Château de Tiffauges
- La Cité des Oiseaux at Les Landes Génusson
- Prieuré de Grammont
- Abbaye de Nieul sur l’Autise
- Abbaye de Maillezais
Seems quite a bargain, when you consider that the annual
pass for the Historial alone is set at 20 euros!
SABLES-D’OLONNE The new cinema complex in
Les Sables. Le Palace has 5 screens (800 seats), and will
apparently have classic films as well as new ones. It’s located near the
“Bowling”, between Les Sables and La Chaume.
St-Gilles-Croix-de-Vie now also has a very comfortable multi-screen cinema -
on the ring road near the Le Fenouiller road - with four theatres. Place
de la Félicité. TIP Reductions on the normal 6.80 euro
admission at St-Gilles: Tuesday,
screenings, for over-60s; Wednesday,
screenings, for children and teenagers (4 euros).
There's a multiplex cinema, Cinéville,
along the road opposite Les Flâneries shopping centre, north of La
Roche-sur-Yon. Generally-speaking, films shown in this and most other Vendée
cinemas will be in French - those made in English or other languages will
have been dubbed into French, rather than being shown in English with
subtitles. Look for “VO” – but double-check that the original language is
English and not, say Japanese.
L`Image, 3 rue Boileau, La
Roche-sur-Yon (just a block west of Place Napoléon, in the town centre)
consistently has films in "version originale", so if they are
British or American they will be shown in English with French subtitles.
(Though if they are originally Italian or Turkish, obviously the magic
letters "VO" will denote another language altogether...) On the
above website, you can click on the title of the film to see more info about
it, so you can find out what nationality it is.
If you're desperate to see a movie in English, and can’t find anything
locally, check out what's on at the Katorza,
3 rue Corneille (just off Place Graslin) in the centre of Nantes.
The Katorza has several screens, usually showing three or four recent films
in English. (Admission is often cheaper in the afternoons than the evenings.)
Cinemas in La Rochelle also often
show films in “VO”. There’s a multi-screen one near the old port.
A rather charming idea is the "Ballad'Images" movie shows, that
visit certain village halls once a month throughout the winter (usually about
October to April). These are screenings of one of the latest family films -
with any made in another language being dubbed into French rather than
subtitled. We attended one such show in our local village, and the projection
quality was excellent - even if the chairs were a little hard! It cost about
4.50 euros a head for adults; children were less.
The summer often sees a season of “Cinésites”, open-air screenings often
in some kind of historic or seaside setting. The film show is usually free,
and the film is chosen to be appropriate in some way to the venue (i.e. a
swashbuckling cloak-and-dagger story against a ruined chateau background).
thinking of bringing your pet dogs and cats to enjoy holidays in your Vendée
home, here is the DEFRA
site with all the essential information on getting them safely back into the
UK again through the Pet Travel Scheme. In particular, the rule that pets
must be treated for ticks and tapeworm between 24 and 48 hours before
entering the UK (French vet's fee for this is around £20) has to be very
strictly complied with, so double-check that the French vet has entered the
correct date on the certificate he gives you.
Here is Brittany
Ferries’ page on the subject.
course you are in France because you love French food, wine and everything
else.However, for those moments when
you are desperate to whip up a homely recipe that requires golden syrup or worcester
sauce, you may find a few British products among the “rayon exotique”
in your local Vendée hypermarket.
In the Aizenay/Challans area of the north-Vendée, a recent addition to the
food scene is Claranne’s Pantry,
outside St-Paul-Mont-Pénit and open Wed 12-4, Sat 10-6. Products range
from Ambrosia custard to TCP disinfectant, by way of Sharwood’s curry sauces
and Rose’s Lime Juice.
LOCAL TALKING POINTS 2008
These are roughly in
descending chronological order - i.e. most recent is at the top. (They
are based on stories gleaned from local newsapers - I take no responsibility
for their accuracy...)
Here is a
link to the Conseil Général’s map showing road improvements due under its
2010 plan (a large file)
Talmont-St-Hilaire bypass The many objections from residents, and a
last-ditch appeal to the European Commission, may not succeed in preventing
the proposed "contournement" of Talmont taking the
"southern route", near the salt marshes and oyster beds of La
It probably won't be built until about 2015.
A 831 - Fontenay to Charente-Maritime A long-planned motorway from
Fontenay-le-Comte south towards La Rochelle and Rochefort(A831) has obtained the go-ahead in
spite of its crossing environmentally sensitive marshland. You can see a plan
of the intended route here.
A87 - Angers to La
Roche-sur-Yon motorway The long-awaited stretch of the A87 linking
the Vendée's county town with Cholet, Angers and the LoireValley is now open, connecting at Les Essarts with the Nantes-Niort-Bordeaux
A83, and linking seamlessly up with the fast dual-carriageway south-west to
Les Sables d’Olonne. A large interchange and service station between the A87
and the future Route du Bocage (see below) is located at Les Herbiers.
If you are driving along it at night, around Les Herbiers there’s a
breath-takingly beautiful view of a magically-illuminated, tall railway
Rocade du Bocage A new road is planned on the east side of
the département, to link Les Herbiers and Fontenay-le-Comte via La
Chataigneraie and Pouzauges. It will also connect the existing A83
Nantes-to-Niort motorway with the A87 La Roche-sur-Yon to Angers autoroute.
Wind farms Since the first Vendée wind farm - or parc
éolien - was built in the marshes west of Bouin, the idea has gained in
popularity and there is little opposition to the schemes. So you can expect
many communes – even quite small ones – to be applying for their two
or three turbines.
Extension to Grand'Landes
rubbish dump Large signs erected by farmers on the
approach roads welcome you to the "poubelle de l'Ouest" -
the dustbin of the West. There are plans to extend this already large (and
well-kept) rubbish dump 18km east of Challans (to which, incidentally, you
can take - for a fee - cumbersome rubbish that can't be put in your dustbins,
for placing in specially-designated skips). It sounds as if it will be
designed to take rubbish from the Nantes area, too.
Possible sites for new dumps There's a great deal of local unrest
concerning a 20-30-hectare site in the north of the Vendée, at Les Landes de
Chatelaine, near La Bruffière, which is the subject of a study into possible
use for burying un-recyclable rubbish. Other sites concerned are Les Lucs-sur-Boulogne,
St-Philbert de Bouaine, Nieul-le-Dolent and La Garnache.