Children without Christmas – Charity Appeal French Riviera

Christmas is creeping up on us all and while I know my family will be spending time together and my son will no doubt be spoiled rotten with more toys (!) there are some children in the French Riviera region who are less fortunate.

This past weekend driving on the A8 motorway towards Mougins, I passed the péage toll at Antibes and there was a cubicle at the side of the road with a sign stating it was a ‘Drop off point for toys for Xmas’.  So, I have investigated a bit more…

Burger Sotheby’s International Realty is organising a ‘Children without Christmas charity appeal’ where you can drop off unwanted toys, books and games to their offices up until 30 November. Their office locations are found here http://ht.ly/ftWtq

The toys will then be distributed via Red Cross, Secours Populaire and other charity organisations to disadvantaged children in the PACA region.  Burger Sotheby’s is also partnering with Vinci Autoroutes (reseau Escota) who have set up special collection points on the autoroutes (including the one I noticed near Antibes last weekend); drop off at the autoroute collection points is until 02 December.  The collection points will be in the parking area just after the toll barriers at:

– Nice Saint Isodore – A8

– Antibes – A8

– Pont de l’Etoile – A52 (direction Aix en Provence)

So, if you have any unwanted toys, games or books in good condition support this great initiative and drop them off to a Burger Sotheby’s office or one of the autoroute collection points and help make someone else’s Christmas more cheerful.

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Activities – LE CANNET (Rocheville à la Campagne 24 November 2012)

In my home country, seeing farm animals regularly is very common – even if only driving 20 minutes out of large cities you are guaranteed to see lots of livestock including cows, horses and especially sheep.  On the French Riviera, it’s a nice experience to take a break from the wallet-emptying attractions and theme parks, and educate your children about animals.

This weekend there is a free family-friendly event being held on Saturday 24 November in Le Cannet, where place Foch will be transformed into a ‘countryside’ experience.

animal displays at Rocheville à la campagne 2011 © B Jerome

There will be sheep herding and shearing displays, bread-making workshops, folk music, pony rides for children and numerous exhibitors selling regional products including honey, preserved meats, cheese, and olive oils.

A ‘countryside’ experience would not be complete without animals, and there will be lots of animals on display for children to get up close and personal with including horses, cows, sheep, goats, donkeys, chicken, ducks, geese, rabbits etc…

rabbits on display – Rocheville à la campagne 2011 © B Jerome

What:  Rocheville à la Campagne farm day

Where:  place Foch, 06110 Le Cannet-Rocheville

When:  Saturday 24 November, 10am-6pm

Cost:  Free entry  (excluding pony rides)

Access:  Via car:  Carparking will be sparse in the local area; there are small carparks near to place Foch at Médiatheque on avenue F. Roosevelt, and Square Turpin on boulevard du Four a Chaux.  Via bus:  Bus Azur has regular buses departing every half-hour leaving from Hotel de Ville in Cannes stopping at place de Rocheville (avenue de Grasse). Duration of bus is about 20 minutes, take Line 2 from Hotel de Ville (Blanchisserie-Les Bastides).

Activities – VALBONNE SOPHIA ANTIPOLIS / ANTIBES (Story telling / music )

If you have children aged 18 months – 4 years a good option for an indoor activity is to visit one of the Médiathèque locations.

As well as being a public library service, they hold photograph exhibitions, multimedia workshops and lectures regularly.

Albert Camus Médiathèque © photo copyright cabinet architecture Bruno Huerre

For children based near Valbonne Sophia Antipolis or Antibes, there are two story-telling sessions (ages 0-3 years, and for 4 years upwards) and free music workshops (18 months-3 years).  Registration is free at the relevant Médiathèque, though it is recommended to book in advance as the sessions do fill up quickly.

The 3 locations are:

Médiathèque Valbonne Sophia Antipolis, 1855 route des Dolines, Les Bouillides, carrefour de Garbejaire, 06560 Valbonne)

Médiathèque Albert Camus, 19 bis boulevard Chancel, 06603 Antibes (on the corner by the traffic lights. Carparking behind the Médiathèque by Intermarche supermarket).

Médiathèque des Semboules, Residence Les Pins B1, rue Robert Desnos, 06600 Antibes

For the current programme of toddler-friendly activities held by the Médiathèques, click on http://www.mediatheque-casa.fr/mediatheque-casa.fr/cms/articleviewpreferences?id_categorie=&id_items=156-157-128&display_order=Selection&nb_aff=5&nb_analyse=10&display_mode=Submenu&summary_content=Summary

Activities – ANTIBES (Children’s clown show – 24/25 November 2012)

Artistes Antibois Associés Théâtre group present the ‘Kokyette’ clown show for children aged 3 years and upwards.

The show comprises 2 clowns who sing, dance, juggle, hula hoop and play the piano.  Show duration is 45 minutes so a good length to entertain small children.

Kokyette clowns © image courtesy of Piccolo Festival

Where: Espace Bonzai, 21 avenue Gazan, 06600 Antibes

When: Saturday 24 November at 4pm, and Sunday 25 November at 2.30pm

Cost: 6€ (children) / 9€ (adults)

More information is found at www.aaatheatre.net or you can contact Espace Bonzai via telephone: 0971 484 395 or Email : info@aaatheatre.net

Tips for learning French

Learning the language of a foreign country can be overwhelming, however my tips are that if you study a small amount regularly this is very effective.

French is a beautiful language.  It sounds amazing to the ear, it looks lovely in script and when you master even a few words your confidence will grow.

I learned some ‘basic’ French at an evening class as I worked full-time during the day and did not have any spare time to study.  However, whilst I found the lessons useful for increasing vocabulary and simple phrases it is the conversational side of French that I often struggled with – how could I advance my learning to hold a conversation back-and-forth between myself and another person and actually understand their response?

My personal style of learning is by first seeing the information, then writing it down – for example, I will read a list of words but I will never remember them unless I rewrite the words on a piece of paper.  Some people learn by hearing only; others by physical repetition; other people learn entirely visually and retain all information (lucky things!).  In the end, I found a combination of these methods improved my standard of French.

Here are my tips for ex-pats recently moved here hoping to learn French, or for travelers to France who are not native-French speakers:

– Learn some basic phrases – it is amazing how much more appreciative you will feel of French culture when you master ‘bonjour’ ‘merci’ ‘au revoir’ and have it returned to you.  For free French language courses that I found really helped me, try http://www.livemocha.com (you can study at your own pace) or http://www.bbc.co.uk/languages

– Immerse yourself in French daily life – chat to people at the bus stop, in the supermarket, try out your French at the train station.  Living here as an ex-pat it is only natural you gravitate to people from your own country however your French will not progress unless you speak to French people in French.

– Read French newspapers, watch French television, listen to French radio.  Even if you do not understand every word your brain will remember bits-and-pieces and increase your comprehension.

– Enrol in an immersion language class.  You may find that studying in a small group and learning French for the real world (visits to the market, restaurants) works well for you.  There are also local conversation groups you could join – search on Angloinfo or similar.

– If you don’t know how to say it in French, find out!   Everywhere I traveled if I saw a French word I did not know I would write it down in a notebook to look up in the dictionary later.  I set myself a target to learn 10 new words minimum per day which was attainable, and my vocabulary quickly increased.  You could begin to….learn the alphabet, greetings, numbers, time, directions, talk about your job and family life, grocery shopping items, parts of the body and basic medical terms, household items, vehicle parts, transport, animals, special occasions….set a simple goal for learning and you will be more likely to stick to it and not get bored.

– Don’t fret when you make mistakes.  French has lots of grammar, so if you make a mistake, don’t worry, just keep practising until you learn how to pronounce something correctly.  There are lots of audio resources on the internet to help you attain better pronounciation.

– Practise, practise, practise!  As a native-English speaker, my confidence held me back initially but I persevered and tried simple phrases which to my shock were understood (!), so don’t be put off if you do try to speak French and someone replies in English as most people will appreciate your efforts.

Bonne chance!