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Château de Chambord in the snow

Not everyone can choose to come to France during the warmer months. Australians in particular often come at Christmas time during their summer holidays, willing to trade over-30-degree temperatures for under ten degrees. Many hope to find snow.

Snow falls in the Loire Valley are highly variable. They rarely arrive for Christmas but there are exceptions such as in 2015. The most likely month for snow is February.

While spring, summer and autumn may be more pleasant seasons to travel in, they do have the major drawback of being full of tourists and accommodation is usually more expensive and harder to come by.

The main Loire Valley Châteaux are all open in the winter, but with shorter opening hours (usually 10 am to about 5 pm rather than 9 am to 6 pm). The wonderful thing is that you can visit without the crowds! The “four C’s” – Chenonceau, Chambord, Chaumont and Cheverny – as well as the royal castles of Blois and Amboise usually have Christmas decorations which adds to their magic. All are open on Christmas Day and New Year’s Day with the notable exception of Chambord and Chaumont.

Although you’ll need to dress warmly, you can still walk around the gardens which are designed to be attractive all year round. Villandry is closed from mid-November to mid-February with the exception of the two-week period surrounding Christmas and New Year which corresponds to the school holidays in France.

Chrsitmas stall in Tours

They may not have the proportions of the markets in Alsace, but the Christmas markets throughout December in Blois and Orléans (which includes a carrousel, big wheel and skating rink), those on weekdays in Tours in December and in Amboise on the 3 days leading up to Christmas are full of hand-made objects and seasonal food and drink.

Other traditional visits in the area include its many vineyards, a chocolate factory in Bracieux which also has workshops and troglodyte mushroom caves in Bourré.

Although temperatures can go below zero, especially at night, they are typically between 4 or 5 and 9 or 10° C during the day. December and January are the darkest months, which means the sun rises between 8.30 and 9 and sets between 4.30 and 5 pm. Shops and restaurants are always heated and some of the châteaux have wood fires. All are sufficiently heated for comfortable visiting.

My advice is to find warm cosy accommodation that is close to shops and restaurants and plan a visit in the morning, followed by lunch indoors next to a fire if possible, then a second visit in the afternoon. You can then warm up and relax before venturing out again for dinner.

The Loire is an easy 2 or 3-day visit from Paris. It is simplest by car (about 2 ½ hours) with convenient parking at all the main venues. However, Blois, Amboise, Tours and Orleans can be accessed by direct train and there are either trains or buses to Chambord, Chenonceau and Chaumont although the service is more restricted in winter.

See my post on visiting the Loire without a car based in Blois and Ten Top Châteaux in the Loire Valley for further information.

And stay at Châtel Rose, my extremely comfortable self-catering studio in the oldest part of Blois, close to everything you could possibly need!

Posted in Accommodation, City breaks, Loire Valley, Loire Valley châteaux | Tagged | 10 Comments


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All property transactions in France take place in two steps: first, after the seller has agreed to the price offer, the seller and buyer sign a promise to sell in the form of either a promesse de vente (unilateral promise to sell) or a compromis de vente (bilateral promise to sell). This can take place privately, in a real estate agency or in a notaire’s office. Then, usually about 3 months later, when all the conveyancing has been done, both parties sign the acte de vente to close the sale.

The first time I purchased a property in France, in the early 1980s, I was told that it was better to sign a compromis de vente rather than a promesse de vente so I was surprised to learn recently, when asked to interpret during the signing of a promise to sell in a notaire’s office that it was a promesse de vente and not a compromis.

Despite my research I was not able to really determine the difference between the two so I asked the notaire, who told me that he only used the promesse de vente agreement. His explanation did not fully satisfy me, apart from the fact that the promesse de vente would appear to be in the purchaser’s favour and the compromis in the seller’s favour. Another important factor is that a real estate agent always uses the compromis de vente agreement which probably explains why I was told it was preferable. Real estate agents who have obtained the corresponding certification can prepare the compromis without going through a notaire and the price of the agreement is included in their commission.

After looking at my own records (my husband and I have bought or sold 8 times, 3 times with a real estate agent and 5 times privately), I discovered that there was a compromis de vente each time a real estate agent was involved and a promesse de vente all the other times. I did more research and spoke to another notaire and here are my conclusions.

Promesse de vente or unilateral promise to sell (the least common)

The seller promises to sell the property to the future buyer at a price agreed upon by the parties thus giving the future buyer exclusivity for a pre-determined period (usually two to three months).

During this time, the seller cannot promise to sell the property to anyone else whereas the future buyer can cancel the sale if they wish to, the only drawback being that they will lose the indemnité d’immobilisation or reservation fee (which roughly corresponds to non-refundable earnest money) if they do not go through with the sale. The reservation fee is usually 10% of the sales price.

If the future buyer does go through with the sale, the 10% is deducted from the price still to be paid.

To be valid, the promise of sale must be registered with the tax department within ten days of signature and if the reservation period is more than 18 months, it must be signed at a notaire’s office. The registration fee, paid by the future buyer, is 125 euros. The fee charged by the notaire for preparing the agreement is not fixed by law and will probably be about 200 euros. You should ask the notaire beforehand.

Compromis de vente or reciprocal promise to sell (the most common)

The seller and the future buyer both undertake to conclude the sale at a price determined jointly. Legally, the compromis is therefore a sale. If one of the parties wants to pull out of the transaction (except if the one of the conditions precedent is not met), the other party can take them to court and force them to do so, in addition to claiming damages.

When the compromis is signed, the purchaser pays earnest money (dépôt de garantie) of 5% to 10% of the sales price. The earnest money is deducted from the final sales price.

The compromis de vente does not have to be registered with the tax department. However, if there is a dispute about the conditions precedent, the parties will both be bound by the agreement, unless the dispute is settled amicably between the parties or by a court decision. In the case of a promesse de vente, both parties are released from the agreement if the future purchaser decides not to buy.

Cooling off period for purchasers – promesse de vente et compromis de vente

Whether you sign a unilateral promise to sell or a reciprocal promise to sell, you have ten-day cooling-off period (délai de retractation) during which you can decide not to purchase the property. The letter stating your intent must be sent by registered letter with acknowledgement of receipt to the seller.

Whatever the reason for cancelling the sale, any amount paid by way of reservation fee or earnest money during the cooling-off period will be reimbursed. The 10-day cooling-off period starts on the day following the day on which the promise to sell is signed at a notaire’s office or, if a private promise to sell is signed, at the first presentation by the postman of the registered letter with acknowledgement of receipt containing the agreement.

For example, if the letter is sent on 10th of the month and the first presentation is the 12th of the month, the cooling-off period will begin on the 13th and end on 22nd at midnight.

Conditions precedent – promesse de vente and compromis de vente

I mentioned the question of conditions precedent (conditions suspensives) earlier on. These are conditions that must be met for closure of the sale to take place.

Whether the promise to sell is unilateral or reciprocal, the seller and buyer can agree to insert one or more conditions precedent in the agreement. This means that if events defined as conditions precedent do not take place before the final sale the agreement is null and void.

  • Examples: the purchaser’s bank loan is refused; the municipality has a pre-emption right; a serious town planning easement is discovered. In these cases, the amounts paid by the purchaser are refunded.
  • A compromis de vente can also contain a clause called a “clause de dédit” (retraction clause) which enables the seller and/or the purchaser to cancel the sale without giving a reason, in return for leaving the other party an agreed-upon amount. However, this practice is very rare.
  • The retraction clause above must not be confused with the penalty clause, which exists in most compromis de vente according to which the purchaser must pay the seller a fixed amount in damages if the purchaser refuses to go through with the sale.

To sum up, if you are purchasing a property in France and you want to be able to cancel the sale without giving a reason (and are prepared to lose the 10% reservation fee!) or if you want a guarantee the date of sale, then you willneed to sign a promesse de vente. You can do it privately (not advisable) or at a notaire’s office.

In all other cases, you can choose either a promesse de vente or a compromis de vente, but if you are going through a real estate agent, then it will be necessarily be a compromis de vente.

Whatever you choose, you will have to sign the final deed at the notaire’s office. I strongly advise choosing your own notaire (in which case the fees are split between all the notaires involved), not because of any possible dishonesty on the part of a notaire, but simply because you will always have an unbiased opinion.

My second recommendation is to make sure you understand EVERYTHING in the deed of sale (which you can request beforehand). Some real estate agents are competent to explain all the details. Otherwise you can call on a certified translator who can also be present during the sale.

For all inquiries, please contact Rosemary Kneipp at or phone 06 76 41 99 43.

Posted in Buying property in France | Tagged | 3 Comments

Exchanging an Australian driver licence for a French licence

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A driver licence issued by a country outside France is only recognised for one year once the person acquires “normal residence” in France, normal residence being defined as the place in which you live for at least six months (185 days) a year due to professional or personal attachments. If you are a foreign student in France, however, you can drive with your non-European licence during your studies.

Who qualifies?

To qualify, your licence must be valid and issued by the country in which you had normal residence at the time.

If you have an existing driver’s licence that is less than three years old then your newly issued French licence will also be a probationary one until a three-year period has elapsed.

When to apply?

You can apply to exchange your licence between the 6th month of your stay in France and before the 18th month depending on when you acquire “normal residence”. The application has to be made less than one year after your Carte de Séjour is issued.

It’s best to start the process a couple of months ahead of time as some documents may require a little time to acquire.

What do I need?

An Australian driving record or traffic history and a driver licence

First you will need an Australian driving record or traffic history, which is normally only available to the driver themselves. It can be ordered on-line but must be sent to an Australian address usually the last one on record. If you haven’t already done so, you’ll need to officially change your address to an address in Australia where the record can be sent. The system is different for each state. All the relevant links are given at the end of this post.

Translation into French

You will then need to have your licence and driving record/history translated by a court-certified translator. The official list can be found on the Court de Cassation website

This is the official list of certified translators in France. All other lists are usually agencies in disguise. Translation agencies cannot be certified themselves, only the individual translators who carry out the work which is usually outsourced.

You can have the translation carried out by a translator living anywhere in France. There are no fixed prices for certified translations in France so they can vary considerably. You will need to take your licence and history to the translator in person or send them a good quality scan by email or a colour photocopy by post. A good quality scan means that it must be done with a scanner/photocopier and not a phone unless you have a special app.

Translators usually ask to be paid in advance by bank transfer, PayPal, etc. The translation is sent back by post. I personally prefer the “lettre suivie” solution. A sticker costs about 40 centimes and means you can track the letter which will be deposited in your mail box and not have to be collected at the post office if you’re not home, like a registered letter (lettre recommandée) does.

Two application forms are to be filled in

1)  Licence exchange application form (purple form – cerfa 14879*01)

Cerfa form 14879*01 available on See below on how to fill out the form.

How to fill out cerfa 14879*01

Tick box n° 2 : échange d’un permis délivré par un état n’appartenant ni l’UE ni à l’EEE

NOM DE NAISSANCE [BIRTH NAME (i.e. surname, family name, maiden name, NOT MARRIED NAME)]

PRENOMS [Given names, in the order on your birth certificate, don’t use initials]

NOM D’USAGE [family name you usually use i.e. an alias or a married name if that is what you usually use. N.B. Women in France NEVER lose their maiden name. The use of their married name is a custom only.]

DATE DE NAISSANCE [Date of birth: day, month, year]

COMMUNE DE NAISSANCE [Place of birth – commune is just another name for municipality ;    Département (irrelevant)]

PAYS [country if you weren’t born in France]

COMPLEMENT D’ADRESSE [extra information, such as floor, stairs, appartment no etc.]

CODE POSTAL [Post Code]                                      COMMUNE [Town]

COURRIEL [Email address]


Nationality(ies) when licence granted:  o  French  o other  Current nationality(ies):  o French o Other

Country in which licence to be exchanged was issued  ……… Issue date ………  Licence n° ……..

Next comes a table listing the European licence classes you have obtained:

AM, A1, A2, A, B, BE, B1, C1, C1E, C, CE, D1, D1E, D and DE

This means that most Australian licences are either French Class A (motorcycle) or Class B (ordinary motor vehicle).


For more information and other classes, see

You then need to fill out the date on which the licence was granted (date d’obtention), the département code (which does not concern you) and the date of expiration (date de validité).

On the right, there are two boxes to tick

o Je m’oppose à la réutilisation de mes données personnelles à des fins autres que celles pour lesquelles, elles sont collectées [I do not wish to have my personal information reused for purposes other than those for which they are collected].

o Je soussigné(e), le (la) déclarant(e), atteste sur l’honneur que les renseignements de la présente demande sont exacts, et ne pas faire l’objet sur le territoire de l’État, de la collectivité d’Outre-mer ou de la Nouvelle-Calédonie, qui a délivré le permis de conduire, d’une mesure de restriction, de suspension, de retrait ou d’annulation du droit de conduire.

[I, the undersigned, the informant, declare on my honour that the information contained in this application is correct that my driver licence has not been restricted, suspended, withdrawn or cancelled in the territory of the State, Overseas Authority or New Caledonian authority that issued the driving licence. (The bits about Overseas and New Caledonia do not apply to Australians).]

Fait à [enter town in which you signed] le (enter date of signature)

Then sign inside the box below using black ink and keeping your signature within the box.

You then need to stick your photo inside the box using double-sided adhesive tape NOT STAPLES.

The second table is used FOR THE ADMINISTRATION to fill in any endorsements.

Applicant’s copy

Now fill in the second page in the same way or photocopy or scan the first page as it is the applicant’s copy.

2) Application for a European format licence (apricot form – cerfa 14848*01 Réf 06)

Cerfa 14848*01 Réf 06  available on See below on how to fill out the form.

How to fill out Cerfa 14848*01

Numéro NEPH – Administration only


Tick box : o demande de permis de conduire par échange

NOM DE NAISSANCE [BIRTH NAME (i.e. surname, family name, maiden name, NOT MARRIED NAME)]

PRENOMS [Given names, in the order on your birth certificate, don’t use initials]

NOM D’USAGE [family name you usually use i.e. an alias or a married name if that is what you usually use. N.B. Women in France NEVER lose their maiden name. The use of their married name is a custom only.]

DATE DE NAISSANCE [Date of birth: day, month, year]

COMMUNE DE NAISSANCE [Place of birth – commune is just another name for municipality ;    Département (irrelevant)]

PAYS [country if you weren’t born in France]

COMPLEMENT D’ADRESSE [extra information, such as floor, stairs, appartment no etc.]

CODE POSTAL [Post Code]                                      COMMUNE [Town]

COURRIEL [Email address]

Je soussigné(e), le (la) déclarant(e), atteste sur l’honneur que les renseignements de la présente demande sont exacts [I, the undersigned, the informant, declare on my honour that the information contained in this application is correct]

FAIT À [enter town in which you signed] Le (enter date of signature)

Then sign inside the box below using black ink and keeping your signature within the box.

Représentant legal: This section is used if you are a guardian applying for a ward.

You then need to stick your photo within the box using double-sided adhesive tape NOT STAPLES.

You then need to stick your photo inside the box using double-sided adhesive tape NOT STAPLES.

At the end there is a box to tick:

Je m’oppose à la réutilisation de mes données personnelles à des fins autres que celles pour lesquelles, elles sont collectées (I do not wish to have my personal information reused for purposes other than those for which they are collected).

Followed by information on the French law concerning Data Processing, Data Files and Individual Liberties

Other documents required for the application:

  • Colour photocopy of the back and front of your driver licence
  • Photocopy of your ID other than a driver licence (both biometric and non-biometric passports are accepted)
  • Photocopy of proof of domicile (electricity, gas or phone bill) with your name on it. If your name isn’t on the account, apply to do so.
  • If you have more than one passport, photocopy of proof of residence in Australia at the time the licence was issued (e.g. registration with consulate, payslips and work contract, school/university reports, etc.)
  • Driving history (ORIGINAL not a copy) less than 3 months old from the country that issued the licence
  • Photocopies of proof of normal residence in France on the date on which the application is submitted (carte de séjour, for example)
  • Photocopy of proof of the date of arrival in France (e.g. airline ticket, French social security membership, etc.)
  • Official translation (original) of your driver licence (you have to send the official translation which will be stapled to a photocopy of your licence, not the actual licence)
  • 3 photos (two of which are stuck to the forms). Write your family name, given names and date of birth on the back of the photos.
  • For truck licences or if your licence has been suspended, a medical check-up must be carried out with a local approved medical practitioner (list on prefecture website)
  • If you live in Corsica or certain French overseas territories, a regional tax must be paid by check
  • 1 post-paid envelope lettre suivie (enveloppe pré-affranchie tarif lettre) 50 g « prêt à poster »), with your name and address.

All incomplete applications will be sent back to the applicant.

Where do I send the documents?

If you live in Paris, send BY POST ONLY to:

Préfecture de Police de Paris


Centre de ressources des échanges de permis de conduire étrangers et des permis internationaux de conduite (Crepic)

1 bis rue de Lutèce

75 195 Paris Cedex 04

If you don’t live in Paris, send BY POST ONLY to:


TSA 83529


What happens next?

After your application is examined, you will be systematically asked to provide your original licence.

You will be contacted by the authority concerned and issued a certificate of secure deposit (ADS) for your Australian driver licence.

You can use the ADS to drive while waiting for your French licence to issued, within the limit of the date of expiration of your Australian licence.

How long will it take?

The processing time will vary according to the complexity of your application and mainly depends on how long it takes to check your right to drive (driving history).

How can you track your application?

You can write an email or phone CERT de Nantes – Suivi de l’échange du permis de conduire

By email :

By phone : 02 55 58 49 00

If you move during the process

Email the above address, together with a pdf version of proof of domicile and the ADS (i.e. interim licence) or, if you haven’t received the ADS, your birth name, given names, date of birth and nationality of the licence.

The French licence is then posted to your home address.

What sort of licence will I get?

The licence is not probationary unless the original licence is less than 3 years old.

The issue date indicated on the licence is the issue date of the French licence. The licence is valid for 15 years from the issue date (except when a medical check-up is needed, for drives of HGVs for example).

If you would like me to translate your documents, you can phone 06 76 41 99 43 or write to To know more about me professionally, you can check out my website

Good luck!

All information taken from the official government site, verified in July 2019.










Posted in Certified translation, French customs | Tagged , , | 3 Comments

Lunch View – Vue de table

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We celebrated Jean Michel’s birthday today at L’Orangerie in Blois and this was our view.

Nous avons fêté l’anniversaire de Jean Michel aujourd’hui à l’Orangerie à Blois et voici la vue depuis notre table.

Posted in Blois, Restaurants | Tagged | 3 Comments

Oyster Season Again – Les huîtres sont de retour

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Wait for the Ice Saints – Il faut attendre les saints de glace

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There is a saying in France that you have to wait until after the ice saints – 11th, 12th and 13th May (Mamert, Pancrace and Servais) before you plants tomatoes and flowers like Busy Lilies. Well my tomatoes are fine because they are in the laundry but not the Busy Lizzies or the plumbago in the barrow. Sigh.

Cette année je n’ai pas écouté le dicton qui dit qu’il faut attendre les saints de glace le 11, 12 et 13 mai avant de faire les plantations d’été. Mes impatiences ont souffert ainsi que le plumbago dans la brouette mais pas les tomates qui sont à l’abri. Oh la la!

Posted in Flowers & gardens | Tagged | 4 Comments

Why must birth certificates in France be less than 3 months old?

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Most foreigners living in France are asked at some stage to deliver a full birth certificate that is less than 3 months old. Why three months?

If you’ve even seen a French birth certificate of someone who has been married, you will understand why.

French birth certificates are “annotés” which means that any change in civil status is recorded on the birth certificate itself – marriage, civil union, separation, divorce, remarriage, death … It’s like a personal history rather than a record of a single event. This is also the purpose of the livret de famille*.

As a result, the French authorities always ask for a recent certificate, which is defined as less than 3 months old. Birth certificates are obtained from the town hall of the place of birth and are free of charge. You simply send a photocopy of your identity card and a stamped addressed envelope with a cover letter saying who you are and what you want and they usually arrive in a few days. You can also go to the town hall in person. Since February 15th 2019, birth certificates can also be obtained in multilingual versions (i.e. all the languages of the European Union).

In most countries other than France, birth certificates are not annotated. As a result, there is no reason to submit a certificate of less than 3 months, nor a translation of less than 3 months. Unfortunately, a lot of authorities are not aware of this. I am a sworn translator (Orléans Appeal Court) and have just translated a UK birth certificate for a British citizen who is getting married in a neighbouring town in the Loire Valley because the local town hall simply knows nothing about the regulations and my client doesn’t want to mess around.

I have personally used the same Australian birth certificate for countless cartes de séjour, two marriages, one divorce and a successful application for French citizenship. Each time, I explained that “les actes de naissance en Australie ne sont pas annotés.”

On the French official website, it says:

Un acte de naissance, de mariage ou de décès demeure valable tant que les éléments qui y figurent n’ont pas été modifiés. i.e. a birth, marriage or death certificate remains valid as long as the information given in the certificate has not been modified.

So that, theoretically, is all you have to quote to an authority that asks for a certificate less than 3 months old. Good luck!

*livret de famille: this is a little booklet you are given when you marry. It is added to each time you have a child. It also records divorces and deaths.

Posted in French customs, Sworn translation | Tagged , , | 3 Comments

Happy New Year 2019

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This is my absolute last chance to write my New Year post and wish you all a wonderful 2019, as tomorrow is the first day of February. I have an exciting year ahead – I am going to retire on 30th June (although I shall keep up my certified translations for a few more years). Retirement will, I hope, give me more time to blog.

The view from our rental in Senglea

Travel continued to play a big role in our lives this year, with our first trip away in February, to the island of Malta, where we stayed in a flat called Marine View in Senglea with a most stunning view both day and night. There were many interesting places to visit and the weather was wonderful, but Cyprus, where we went last year, remains my favourite Mediterranean island.

Château de Chambord in the snow

A snowfall on our return provided the occasion for my most stunning photo yet of Château de Chambord which remains high on the list of our cycling destinations in summer and a great place to walk in the winter.

The bridge between La Rochelle and Ile de Ré

In April we went to La Rochelle for a long week-end and had a truly unforgettable experience at Christopher Coutanceau’s 2-star Michelin restaurant followed by lots of cycling on nearby Ile-de-Ré. It’s a very busy and lively town and it’s a great place to shop in comfort (especially for a non-shopper like myself). There’s lots of activity at night along the waterfront which made a bit of a change from the Loire in winter.

The main square of Krakov

We spent the whole of June in Germany and Poland, on our power-assisted bikes clocking up 800 kilometers for 16 days’ cycling. As ever, Germany was a pure delight. It is just so geared to cyclists with all its bike paths and rest-stops and I adore the colourful half-timbered houses in all the little towns and villages!


Poland, however, was another story. Although the major cities such as Poznan, Gdansk, Warsaw, Krakow and Wraclow have an amazing network of bike paths, as soon as you get out of the built-up area, you have to take either the main road or go on mountain-bike trails for 20-year-olds in top form. One unforgettable ride through a very sandy forest had me preferring the bitumen and traffic! There are practically no pretty villages which was a great disappointment. The only exception was Gdansk which we really loved. We had an apartment outside the town and were able to cycle happily up and down the coast through the seaside vilalges as well as into the city with its beautiful baroque façades.

Miltenberg on the Main

After two weeks in Poland, we were relieved to get back to Germany and follow the Main River! Poland, despite its drawbacks, is a country on the rise economically and that was obvious everywhere we went. It was difficult to have much contact with the locals though, as they were not very welcoming on the whole.

Stunning azulejos in Porto

Our week’s holiday in autumn this year took us to Porto with Ryan Air (never again!) from the nearby city of Tours. We enjoyed the first three days in Porto, by which time we had exhausted its possibilities, including a rather hair-raising bike ride along the coast. For the next three days, we took day trains (about one-hour each way) to the very interesting historical towns of Guimaraes, Aveiro and Braga. Poland may be on the way up, but Portugal is definitely going in the opposite direction. It’s very sad to see.

A favourite view of Blois when cycling along the Loire

On the home front, we continued to cycle throughout July, August and September nearly every day, often in the evenings for a picnic on weekdays thanks to the long twilight and the amazing weather. We are now up to 5000 kms since we bought our power bikes in May 2017.

Winter walk along the Loire on a rare sunny day

The winter, so far, has been cold and rainy. I’ve been forcing myself to go for an hour’s walk every two days but it’s not very attractive. We have a yearly pass to Château de Chenonceau though which makes a welcome change.

Jean Michel kept on with the renovations at the studio flat in Blois most of the year and it is now ready for holiday accommodation on I amused myself with some of the decorative features but my brilliant ideas always turned out to be more time-consuming than expected. As it is in a very old building, Jean Michel had to face up to a lot of challenges as well.

Château de Chenonceau from the walking path on the other side

This coming year, especially once I have retired, we went to do more home exchanges as well. And in case anyone is wondering – we still follow the 5:2 diet twice a week and are in very good health! I miss my blog and hope that retirement really will bring me the time and energy I need to write more often! In the meantime, I would like to wish everyone a very happy and fulfilling 2019 and maybe see you over at!

Posted in Blogging, Blois, Cycling, Cyprus, France, Germany, Poland, Uncategorized | Tagged , , | 19 Comments

Friday’s French – acte de naissance, extrait d’acte de naissance, copie intégrale, birth certificate, entry of births

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In my work as a sworn translator in France, the document I am asked to translate and certify the most often is the birth certificate.

In France, it comes by various names: acte de naissance, extrait d’acte de naissance, copie intégrale, extrait avec filiation, extrait sans filiation.

So first, what is an acte de naissance and why is it called an acte? An acte in French is a written document established according to certain rules. In this case, it is the official document written up by the officier de l’état civil (registration officer) in a register kept for this purpose following a declaration of birth. It corresponds to the British “entry of birth”.

Acte de naissance

An acte de naissance is thus called an “entry of birth” in the UK.

So an acte de naissance is an entry in a register. When you ask for a copy of what is written in a birth register in France, i.e. a birth certificate, you have three choices:

Acte de Naissance Copie Intégrale (or copie intégrale avec filiation) reproduces all the information in the birth register, including the following:
– surname, given names, sex, date and place of birth of the person concerned
– surname, given names, date and place of birth of the parents

It can also have the following information, called mentions marginales (or endorsements) which makes it different from a regular British, American, or Australian birth certificate:

– Mention of marriage, divorce, legal separation, decease,
– Mention of French nationality (registered declaration, loss, reinstatement, naturalisation)
– Mention of the first issue of a French nationality certificate.

It is because of these endorsements that the French authorities always ask for a birth certificate of less than three months as it provides a record of a person’s civil status throughout their life. Since most of the English-speaking countries do not endorse their certificates, the date of issue of the certificate makes no difference. I used exactly the same birth certificate and its translation for all my resident visas, 2 marriages, 1 divorce and 1 naturalisation.

Extrait d’acte de naissance avec filiation

This is a summary of the information in the birth register:

– surname, given names, sex, date and place of birth of the person concerned
– surname, given names, date and place of birth of the parents
– mentions marginales if they exist

Extrait d’acte de naissance sans filiation

This is a summary of the information in the birth register:

– surname, given names, sex, date and place of birth of the person concerned
– mentions marginales if they exist

In Great Britain, the most common type of birth certificate is called “Certified copy of an entry” and provides the following information:

– NHS number (in the more recent ones)
– name, surname and sex of the person concerned
– year, date and place of birth
– names, surnames, dates and places of birth and occupation of the mother and father
– name of the informant

Its format and other details, however, vary according to the place and year of birth.

There is also a shorter version called a “Certificate of Birth” which only has the person’s given names and surname, sex, date and place of birth, corresponding to the French “extrait d’acte de naissance sans filiation”. IT IS NOT VALID WHEN APPLYING FOR FRENCH NATIONALITY, for example.

In the United States, birth certificates are county-issued documents and not standardised within a state.

In North Carolina and Utah, there is a “Certificate of Live Birth” and a “Standard Certificate of Birth” both containing the following information, with the Certificate of Live Birth being more complete:

– name, surname and sex of the person concerned
– year, date and place of birth
– names, surnames, dates and places of birth and occupation of the mother and father

Florida has a “Certification of Birth” with

– child’s name, date and county of birth and sex
– names of mother and father (but not their birth dates)

South Africa issues a document called a “Birth Certificate

– ID number
– name, surname and gender of the person concerned
– year, dates and places of birth and ID n° of the mother and father
– endorsements

Australia has different certificates for different states and years of birth, although the information is more or less the same. The document is usually called a birth certificate (sometimes just “Birth”).

– Child (given names, surname/family name, sex, year, date and place of birth)
– Mother and Father (given names, surname/family name, age, birthplace and occupation)
– Name of informant
– Witnesses at birth
– Previous Children of Relationship; Informant/s (name, address);
– Registration Officer (name, date)

There are a few idiosyncrasies. More recent ACT birth certificates use the term “Personal furnishing particulars” to describe what previously concerned the informant. In Victoria, there is a section called “Endorsements” which is Queensland is called “Notes”. Both the ACT and Victoria include the marriage of the parents. Examples per state can be found on

In Canada, it is called a Birth Certificate or Certificate of Birth and comes in two forms: short or long.

The short form gives the following information:

  • last name
  • given name(s)
  • date of birth
  • certificate number
  • birthplace
  • sex
  • date of registration
  • registration number, and
  • date issued

The long form  is a certified copy of the birth registration so contains details about
the parents, informants, witnesses, etc. depending on the state.

In Ontario it comes in a bilingual version called Birth Certificate/Certificat de Naissance.

In Quebec, it is called a certificat, copie d’acte ou attestation de naissance (birth certificate or a copy of an act of birth in English) and can be obtained in either English or French but not a bilingual version. The birth certificate is the short form and the copy of an act of birth is the long form.

So, to answer the question “What is a copie intégrale”?, it is a birth certificate that provides the following minimum information:

– given names, surname and sex of the person concerned
– year, date, hour and place of birth
– names, surnames, dates and places of birth of the parents

In the UK, it is called a “Certified copy of an entry of birth”.

In Australia and Africa, it is called a “Birth Certificate” or “Certificate of Birth”.

In the US, it goes by various names, usually containing the expression “Certificate of Birth”.

In English-speaking Canada, it is a long form birth certificate and in Quebec, a copy of an act of birth.

In France, birth certificates are issued free of charge (in a multilingual version* if requested) to:

– The person concerned by the certificate, their legal representative or spouse,
– An ascendant of the person concerned (parent, grandparent),
– A descendant of the person concerned (child, grandchild),
– Or a professional authorised to do so by law (lawyer for their client, for example).
– To any person provided the entry is more than 75 years old or the person has been dead for more than 25 years.

They are obtained from the townhall of the person’s birth, either in person, by post (include a stamped addressed envelope) or on-line.

*The multilingual version is never a “copie intégrale” but only an “extrait d’acte de naissance” and does not have the parents’ birth date or age, nor their profession. They are usually used within the European Union and not accepted by the US government, for example. 

Posted in French language, Sworn translation | Tagged | 5 Comments

The Akubra Saviour

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We’ve just arrived in Malta for a week of sun and exploring. It is 1°C when we leave Blois at 5.20 am and 15°C when we arrive in Valetta at 1 pm. After checking out our rental apartment, Marina View, with its stunning view of Vittoriosa across the other side of the Marina, we have an excellent meal at the Enchanté Restaurant on the waterside.

After lunch we walk down the other side of marina and over the footbridge to Vittoriosa. It’s quite windy and my trusty Australian Akubra Traveller* hat blows off my head and into the marina. Oh no!

We watch as it makes its way down the marina, hoping it won’t sink. I see a man with a little boat who ferries people across to the other side so I go down to see if he can save my hat.

He very nicely manoeuvres under the rope with his passengers on board until he is close enough to swoop down and retrieve the hat.  When he hands it up to me I tell him it’s an Australian hat. “From Sydney?”, he asks. “I’ve been to Sydney!”

The hat stands up surprisingly well to its dunking but I get sick of carrying a soppy hat after a while and strap it to the back of Jean Michel’s back pack. I won’t be wearing it near the marina again!

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Posted in Accommodation, Malta, Mat, Sightseeing | Tagged , | 11 Comments