France has always held a certain fascination to me. Whether the first attraction was that I visited Dieppe on a week-long school trip at the age of eleven; my love of all things gastronomic; or something else is unclear. My command of the French language was, and remains, limited.
Certainly, my love of France increased out of all proportion when I married my late wife; a French rose who always wanted to live in England. It was mutually, though begrudgingly, agreed that we could live in France…when we retired in thirty plus years!
Apart from the near annual trip to France to see family in the Languadoc and friends spread countrywide, and the occasional hop across La Manche to the northern shoreline on Brittany; la belle France was off limits. There were other countries to see and that was that.
However, one annual pilgrimage was to London for the occasion of The France Show. Organised by Archant Limited, the exhibition at Earls Court was a must visit. This year, for the first time, it was held at Kensington Olympia and after my own five year hiatus I was back.
The venue has changed but the format hasn’t. A mixture of travel, food and drink, property advice and sales, and general Gallic ambiance prevail. Petanque was played by seasoned expert and novice alike. The show was spread over three days with nearly one hundred and fifty exhibitors.
The venue was divided over two floors with the upper level dedicated to property in France. Every area of home ownership was covered; banking, notaries (or solicitors for conveyancing), mortgage providers, money transfers, banks, hauliers; and not forgetting property agents. And in a UK first, over sixty properties were to be auctioned off. With starting prices of €10,000 for a plot of land to €14,000 for a renovation project to €975,000 for a gite complex; there was something for most tastes and budgets. However, this unique and fresh approach to making French property ownership accessible here in the UK failed on this occasion to grip the buying public’s attention. With nine lots sold prior to auction and a couple more withdrawn, only two lots sold during the auction. Fortunately, France Property Auctions say there is interest in most of the properties outside the auction; and further auctions will be conducted.
Special interest theatres on this floor also provided more detailed briefings on buying property and the wherewithal that it so important before jumping in.
If the atmosphere on the upper level was, as required, serious; the lower floor was where the fun resided. Yes, there was a petanque area, but also much more. The business end of the travel and gastronome area were the stalls that plied their goods and services; be it language classes in the Dordogne, wine from Burgundy, or cheese from just about everywhere. Many stands offered tastings to those wishing to try (on this occasion research dictated that I must).
If your interest were more in visiting France, ferry companies and Le Shuttle were present to escort you across the water; and numerous tourist offices assisted by whetting your appetite for an early ‘vacances’.
FACT: The Sensation Bretange stand served up 1200 freshly shuck oysters during the show…more research!
The Flavours of France stage provided a wealth of entertainment. Various chefs concocted a mouth-watering array of food, the like of which France is justifiably proud. Choirs sang and Cancan dancers delivered high-legged kicks. The stage also hosted a range of guest speakers who offered up their experiences of life in France. Smaller theatres existed where wine tastings and other delights abounded.
In all, the show is a delight for francophiles and also a large contingent of French expats living in the UK.
Not so much an ‘au revoir’, more an ‘a bientot’.
Archant Limited are publishers of Living France, FRANCE Magazine, and French Property News; as well as other specialist and local interest journals throughout the UK. www.archant.co.uk
The France Show 2016 will be held at Kensington Olympia between Friday 29th and Sunday 31st January 2016. www.thefranceshow.com