The homeowner's page - 4
Internet and communications;
Local talking points


Below are links to the four different sections into which I have now divided this part of the site.










rental & tax


garden centres










travel deals






estate agents



talking points








France Telecom can provide fixed and mobile phones and services, as well as broadband internet connection.

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 <> 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 which are your most frequently-called numbers and then charges accordingly.

Mobile phones 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 where possible.

'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  





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 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 – sorry…).

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 etc). 

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
- L’Historial
- 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!







If you check out the website
you will find listings for most cinemas in the Vendee (though for some reason, not the new one in Les Sables-d'Olonne).
Here is a useful link, to the AngloInfo site for Pays de la Loire region, which lists all films showing in English in the region for the current week.

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 - the Cinémarine, 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, 5.30pm screenings, for over-60s;
Wednesday, 3pm 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.


Itinerant movies
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).






If you're 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.






Of 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.






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 Guittière.
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 Loire Valley 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 viaduct.

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.

© Angela Bird





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