Thursday, April 30, 2009

Football marries Rugby in FAB PO

Eric Cantona's team is playing Marc Lievremont's team in a game of two halves :
The first half is football and the second half is rugby!!!
In aid of charity , this match will be held in Vernet les Bains at 18h on May 1st. Entrance 5euros.
May 2nd will be the revenge match at Argeles sur Mer ( Stade Gaston Pams) at 17h follwed by a concert headlined by local grown CALI. Entrance 10euros.

Fête De La N'importe Quoi

It's festival time in the Pyrenees Orientales and every little town and village gets ready to parteeeee
Of course, being French, most of the festivals are based around food. There's the oyster festival, the cherry festival, the apple festival, the bread festival, the strawberry festival, the artichoke festival, to name but a few.
The festival theme is really just an excuse really for everybody to get together, socialise and share a few anecdotes over a few convivial glasses of wine.
This weekend in Corneilla de la Riviere for example, we will be celebrating "La Fête de Thym" - Yes, you've heard it correctly, the 8th annual Thyme festival promises to be a superbe day out ;
9H Kicks off with an artisan market with local wines, produce, charcuterie, honey, cheeses , oh and of course some thyme
10H A musical "troupe" will take to the streets and entertain the market goers
11H The Giants will march through the town; huge statues in brilliant costume
12H Catalan sardane dancing
1230 Barbeque ( with thyme flavours of course)
14H Human pyramid ( really is an amazing sight)
14H30 More music
15H Albert Bueno concert
17H More sardane dancing
18H Thyme soup for everyone

Contact us to find out what festival is on when you are here and make your trip a memorable one to the FAB PO! A great way to taste real Catalonia, literally!

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Tour de France is coming to town!

The roads are being widened, the city is being cleaned up, the flowers are being planted ... Stop press! The Tour de France is coming to town!!!

For the 36th time since the tour has been running, Perpignan, cité catalane, will welcome the cyclists to it's refurbished Place Catalogne in Perpignan central for the finish of the 5th stage of the 2009 tour. The finish line is in front of the newly restored 'Dames de France' building , which dates from 1903, the same age as the Tour de France itself!
This 96th Tour de France will be made up of 21 stages and will cover a total distance of 3,500 kilometres.

Mark it in your diaries, July 8th , the Cap D'agde - Perpignan stage , of over 197 kms will take the following course :

Departing Cap D'Agde , the route will enter the FAB PO at Barcares and will skim down the coast, passing Canet, St Cyprien, Argeles sur Mer before heading back up to the main road approaching Perpignan from the South. The cyclists will race 5kms around the centre of Perpignan before coming back to Dali's "centre of the universe".

The city of Perpignan expects to receive over 20,000 tourists for this massive sporting event, not to mention tv crews and media.

Don't forget to book your accommodation early to avoid disappointment. See for accommodation options

Monday, April 27, 2009

Everybody needs somebody to love

FAB PO member Berkeley Wright is playing in this free Blues Brothers concert tonight : 27 April 2008
It is open to everyone, and it is free entrance (but drinks can be bought). It is at Camping La Sirene, Route de Taxo, Argeles-sur-Mer , Monday 27 April at 21.30 - the show lasts about two hours. Berkeley Wright is one of the stars of the show!
For directions & info see
NB: If it rains, the show will be cancelled.
Check with La Sirene Tél. : 04 68 81 04 61 before leaving home
Sounds like fun!

Friday, April 24, 2009

Vintage Car Rally in Perpignan

A Car Lovers Delight
Last Saturday , 18 April, Perpignan hosted it's 29th annual Car Vintage Rally ( La Nuit des Longs Capots) FAB PO went along to see what all the fuss was about and even for us girlie girls, the cars were seriously impressive and the atmosphere one of excitement and anticipation.
The rally brings 70 different types of cars manufactured since the 1950s. Organised by the grand prix association 66, it gives vintage car owners the chance to peacock their prized possessions in a very convivial atmosphere.
The departure point was at 10h30 from in front of the Palais de Congres ( where the main tourist office in Perpignan is located) and from there they are given their map and off they roar. The 2009 route brought them from Perpignan to the fortified town of VilleFranche sur Conflent , then back to Mas Vermeil in Perpignan and around again to Ille sur Tet.
Sundays route was from Perpignan to Chateau de Corneilla and back.
Anyone interested in partaking next year 2010, should contact the organiser :
Another great reason to visit the FAB PO!

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Focus on The French Tour Co

Every week, we hope to do a "focus on" feature on one of our FAB PO members. This week , it's Suzanne and Karen O'Reilly from The French Tour Co ( http://www.thefrenchtourco/)

Article from The French Connexion, June 2008

Two sisters start two businesses

Sisters Suzanne and Karen O'Reilly have set up two businesses together in France.
Former French teacher and air hostess Suzanne, 35, got the idea for a property business six years ago. The pair branched out this year to start a second business doing regional tours.

How long have you been in business?
I started in the property business in 2000 when I worked with a real estate agency in Perpignan, learning the ropes for two years. In 2002, I set up business with my sister Karen offering a property-finding service to English speakers. This year we have diversified and our new sister company provides tours and transfers in the Perpignan area.

Why did you choose to do it?
In 2000, I was happily employed by the Amir of Qatar and flying first class on his private jets around the world as one of his flight attendants. While rollerblading on the Promenade des Anglais in Nice one day, I fell and broke my wrist and so had to find another job as I was unable to fly. While recuperating in France, I spotted a niche in the market to help English-speakers purchase property - at the time, there was nobody else doing this in the Perpignan area and the business took off.
For the tours, we had a huge clientelle in the area and they were always asking us about discovering the region. We just recognised another area of business that complimented our own. We were kind of doing that job for free for a lot of people. We can show people places they wouldn’t get to see - little places and views. A lot of people who take the tours fall in love with the area and think about living here so then we can find property for them.

What type of business are you and how much did it cost to set up?
For the property business we were both set up as agent commercial indépendant. The costs were minimal - about €150 to register with the chamber of commerce. The French Tour Co is a registered SARL - my sister and business partner is an accountant so we did not have to employ a professional to help us set it up.

What was your expected income?
The French Tour Co is a completely new business so we have no idea what our turnover will be. We've bought a minibus and have other vehicles on our fleet, including a convertible - this year we will be happy to break even.

What were the hurdles?
The social charges were a huge shock to us, it's only really in year three they begin to kick in, in earnest.

What would you have done differently?
We were overly enthusiastic at the beginning and probably didn't do enough research into the whole social charges/taxation system. I would recommend to everyone if they are getting into business to hire a good local accountant and get sound financial advice before launching into the unknown.

See article here :

Accommodation in Perpignan centre

Special offer!!!!!!

Lovely apartment to rent in Perpignan city centre – 15% off all bookings for April and May.
The apartment is located in a former 17th century convent 2 minutes’ walk from Perpignan’s Place de la République.
Renovated to a high standard, it comfortably sleeps 6 with two double bedrooms plus a twin.
Normal prices: 550 euros/week or 300 euros for 3 night weekend stay.
Special offer prices: 467.50 euros/week or 255 euros for 3 nights.

Please contact Louise Sayers for availability information at and don’t forget to quote FAB-PO.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Things to do on a rainy day in Perpignan

Yes, well, "Il pleut toujours comme une vache qui pisse" ( It's raining like a cow pee-ing!) but that doesn't mean you will be bored if you are visiting the FAB PO.

Here's 10 things to do if it is raining in the PO

1. Take a wine tour with The French Tour Co. Their red beret wine tour will take you to three vineyards and a gourmet three course lunch on a vineyard estate :

2. Do a solar energy workshop. Nigel Howard from MySolarShop gives very interesting workshops. Living in the sunniest part of France, it really is a very interesting half day :

3. Meet Gem Melville, South African textile artist in her studio in Reynes ( near Ceret) and partake in an art workshop :

4. Visit the Cathar Castles

5. Visit Vernet les Bains, a beautiful picturesque spa town about a 40 min drive west of Perpignan. After a visit of the relaxing natural hot spas, enjoy a gorgeous lunch or dinner with your fab hosts, Tiffany and Dave at Bistrot le Cortal :

6. Go Shopping !

7. Go for a french lesson and improve your vocab : learning french makes your stay in France so much more interesting :

8. Visit the museum of modern art in Ceret and soak up the café culture in this quaint town , about a 40 minute drive south of Perpignan

9. Go ski-ing! The ski resorts are just over an hours drive from Perpignan and when it's raining here, it's usually snowing up there!

10. Be very French and stay all day in bed with your lover... with a good bottle of wine of course! We recommend Domaine Treloar :

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Procession of the Sanch

Good Friday,

A traditional procession which has surivived centuries in the Roussillon region, this slow and macabre march through the streets of Perpignan every Good Friday is a step back into medieval history.

The procession, which is a symbol of the passion of Christ, dates back to the mid 15th century , when the penitents would make their way to the gallows, accompanied by their robed executioners. All parties are robed in klu klux klan type outfits in red and black.

We were given a fascinating insight into the procession by local lady Florence Sabra who owns Alfmed ( ) . She brought a group of us to a strategic view point and gave us the background to the sombre march.

Whilst I cannot say that I enjoyed the march, as it is no barrell of laughs, it is certainly something one should witness if you are here in the region .. the slow walk though the city of Perpignan is very well supported by the locals and they all respectfully line the streets to see the penitents on their way.

A sight to behold...

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Irish News FAB PO article

Here's the text of the article in the Irish News yesterday - should have hard copy at the next meeting:

Catalan charm in the south of France
By Brian Campbell11/04/09

From Collioure to Canigou and from Perpignan to Prades, the Pyrenees Orientales area of France is an absolutely stunning place to visit.

The region is in the extreme south-east of France and there is an astonishing amount to see and do between the Mediterranean coast and the ski resorts of the Pyrenees.Much of the area's attraction is the promise of both sunny beaches and plentiful skiing, while delicious food and a choice of some of France's finest wines is another major draw.

Much of the Pyrenees Orientales (PO) used to be part of Catalonia and so Catalan culture looms large and the ‘blood and gold' Catalan flag is a common sight.

The Vella Frontera vineyard in Maury boasts the slogan ‘Catalan charisma and French finesse' and this sums up the PO perfectly.

We visited the area in mid-March and the glorious sunshine we enjoyed made it easy to believe that there are on average 300 days of sunshine per year here.The favourable climate is of course ideal for the countless vineyards in the PO and as well as the rows and rows of vines, the pink peach trees are a sight to behold.

Another stunning sight is the sun setting on the breathtaking and majestic Mount Canigou, which at 9130ft dominates the region and remains snow-capped right up until mid-summer.

For our visit we flew into Girona in Spain, just south of the French border.As you venture north into France, the Pyrenees Orientales region can roughly be described as a triangle than runs from Cerbere and Collioure in the south up the coast to Le Barcares and then west to the border with Andorra.

The region's capital is the attractive city of Perpignan.Two of the most popular sites in the city are the Loge de Mer building and Le Palais des Rois de Majorque (The Palace of the Kings of Majorca) – a fortress that dates back to 1276.Perhaps the most photographed landmark is the Castillet, which stands at the point where the old and new towns meet.The building used to be a city gate and is now the symbol of Perpignan.

While Perpignan is in off the coast, no visit to this area is complete without a trip to the jaw-droppingly beautiful port of Collioure.Often referred to as ‘the jewel in the crown of the Pyrenees Orientales', it boasts the Notre Dame des Anges church, the Chateau Royal fort and a host of shops and cafes right by the water.

Other must-see towns and villages of the PO are the picturesque Eus, perched on a hill, and Villefranche de Conflent.

Villefranche is a postcard-perfect medieval fortified town and, as with a city such as Venice, it's so picturesque and unspoiled that it's hard to believe people live here.It dates back to 1092 and is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, with Fort Liberia (built in 1681) perched on the mountain above.

You can also hop on the ‘Petit Train Jaune' (yellow train) for a scenic ascent through the Tet valley.The Train Jaune is an extremely popular tourist attraction and our journey from Villefranche up to Fontpedrouse offered some astonishing views and the snowy peaks of Canigou were again on display.

On one night we stayed in the town of Prades, not far from Villefranche.Our accommodation was at the Maison 225 guesthouse (, owned and run by Sharon and Declan O'Kane – who moved from Belfast to Dublin and then to the much sunnier spot that is the south of France.The elegant townhouse dates back to 1888 and has been stylishly refurbished by Sharon and Declan and it offers great views of Canigou.

On our trip we also enjoyed a fantastic motorbike tour through the mountains, taking in the Roman aqueduct at Ansignan, the breathtaking Gorges de Galamus and – built into a cliffside – the Hermitage of Saint-Antoine.The high and winding road that takes you through the mountains is the stuff of Hollywood films and offers staggering views of the Gorges.The motorbike tours are run by Englishman Roland Thomas of Fenouilledes Motos in Perpignan and they are well worth trying (

After our road trip, we had a fantastic meal at the Auberge du Cellier restaurant in Montner, in the midst of the Cotes du Roussillon vineyards (

We also dined at Le Cortal in the incredibly scenic town of Vernet-les-Bains – a place described by Rudyard Kipling as ‘the paradise of the Pyrenees' – and in La Table, a cavernous and very cool restaurant and bar in Perpignan.La Table ( can be found on what must be one of the most French-sounding streets ever – Rue de la Poissonerie!

One of the things people in the PO are most passionate about is their wine.We sampled the wines of Domaine Treloar ( in Trouillas and Domaine Vella Frontera ( in Maury.Domaine Treloar is owned and run by Englishman Jonathan Hesford and his New Zealand-born wife Rachel Treloar, while Domaine Vella Frontera is run by Welshman Corin Fairchild and his English wife Jayne.Both wineries pride themselves on being independent high-quality operations, with all the grapes hand-picked and the wines hand-crafted and made on-site.Both Treloar and Vella Frontera offer fantastic wines and we took a tour and tasting at Domaine Treloar that comes highly recommended.

The PO is a fantastic place to go hiking, while the promise of great food, fine wines, cafe culture, skiing, beaches, stunning scenery and breathtaking mountains should be enough to tempt anyone.Add to this the fortified towns, markets, castles, cathedrals, churches and the very friendly people and it's hard to resist the Pyrenees Orientales.

All in all, it's truly one of the most beautiful parts of the world. Bon voyage!


• Ryanair flies from Dublin to Barcelona/Girona and to Carcassonne. There are also direct flights to Perpignan on Ryanair from London Stansted.

• For my visit I stayed at Maison 225 in Prades (, at Le Chai Catalan in Ortaffa ( and at the Citea aparthotel in Perpignan (

• Accommodation is also available at Les Hirondelles in Fuilla ( and at Village Catalan in Vernet-les-Bains (

• For custom-made tours and for a great way to see the Pyrenees Orientales for the first time, we recommend checking out The French Tour Co, which is run by Co Limerick sisters Karen and Suzanne O’Reilly. They offer English-speaking wine tours, spa tours, art tours, walking tours, photography tours, coastal tours and more (

• Two museums worth checking out in the area are the Musee d’Arte Moderne at Ceret and the Salvador Dali Museum at Figueres (Spain).

• Another place to visit is the Bains de St Thomas natural hot springs and spa resort set in a stunning location in the mountains (

• Our trip was organised by FAB PO (French Anglo Business in the Pyrenees-Orientales), the English-speaking international business network based in the south of France.

For more info, visit

Thursday, April 2, 2009

It's raining, it's pouring.. It's snowing!!!

It doesn't often rain here in the Pyrenees Orientales , but when it does at this time of the year, it generally means that it is snowing in the mountains. How blessed are we? In about an hours drive from the med, we can be clicking on our skis in the Pyrennean ski resorts.

There are 8 ski resorts , all within a short drive from each other, so it is possible to go for a weeks ski-ing and try out a different resort every day.

Font Romeu is the biggest and closest to Perpignan. It is perfect for the beginner skier, with 16 green runs and 9 blues - it has 9 reds and 6 blacks as well for the more experienced! Les Angles has 32 slopes in total and a busy little town you can ski into. Formigueres is my personal fave , a real authentic french village with a friendly local crowd and a great bar! There is also La Llagonne with just three slopes, perfect for first timers or if you are travelling with small children and want to keep an eye on them.

Another hour further along the road and you can ski ( & shop!) in Andorra ... wooo hooooo, now where are my skis??
( Photo is Les Angles web cam today , 2/4/9)