Saturday, 7 September 2019

Ten years ago - Not holding back on the emotion

I knelt down in the garden and looked back towards the house. It was empty of all furniture, all personal possessions, almost all traces of our precious family life. We had packed up for a year but instinct told me that we would not be back and that our one-year French adventure would in fact take us further, and for longer, than we had planned.

This morning, I was again out in the garden, a different garden, absentmindedly pulling out weeds and thinking back to that day ten years ago when our departure from Melbourne finally became a reality. As a family, we are pretty hit-and-miss when it comes to marking milestones, but with a bit of luck all of us were able to be together for a few hours over breakfast.

Of course, we did reminisce but the question of where we would be in another ten years was waved away. Back then, a family movie night involved making a selection from the DVDs on the shelves of the video store down the road; my cool new flip-open telephone let me make phone calls and not much else; our cameras were separate, heavy devices to our phones; Facebook was a few years old but Instagram not yet invented; emails were still popular and effective ways of communicating and when it was suggested that I blog about our experience, it didn't even occur to me to take this as a serious suggestion. We had one computer for the whole family which, although technically portable, weighed a lot and had limited storage. How is it possible that that was only ten years ago? I haven't even touched on all the personal changes. No wonder we were a bit reluctant to project forward another ten years.


What I can say, though, and here is where my emotion really ramps up, I wish that I could flick a switch and do it all again. If you have read our story, you will know that it was not easy. You will know too that our one year did indeed turn into several and that our French life was not at all what we had thought it would be. I don't want to do it again to get it 'right'. Truthfully, I'd love to gather my little ones around me, hold their hands to run to the playground or walk by the Annecy Lake, discover snow and skiing with them for the first time, hear them becoming little French people joking and singing in their new language and watch them learning joyfully about themselves and their world.

It was good to be together this morning.





 

Thursday, 29 August 2019

A shimmering jewel in its mountain clasp


It is very nearly ten years since we first arrived in Annecy. We will celebrate the day hopefully with a family gathering, but definitely with a touch of nostalgia as we are not the same family anymore. I don't mean that in any sort of outlandish, sensational way. Time does what it wants and children of 6, 9 and 12 need their parents in very different ways to children of, well, you can do the maths.

But, the maternal emotion of that memory can wait for another post.

Today, I remember instead the magic of seeing what was to be our new home for the first time. Even through the fog of tiredness brought about by the long journey across the world hot on the heels of the mammoth job of packing up our entire Australian lives, the Annecy lake sparkled; an inverted diamond in its mountain clasp.

I remember asking whether one day I would take the beauty for granted, not notice the mountains, or care not whether the light on the water was starkly reflective or announcing the cacophony of an approaching storm.

"No," was always the answer, accompanied with a look sometimes quizzical, sometimes stern.

They were right. The beauty of this lake and mountains will not fade like that of this ageing mother.

Nonetheless, like mother and child, we took time to get to know and love each other. We walked, climbed, skied, photographed, swam, water-skied...played together and the bond became stronger, even though we knew instinctively that one of us was always going to have the upper hand. As such, the climb to the top of the highest mountain around the lake, La Tournette, took on a bit of a mythical turn in my mind.

I made it this summer. And the photos of that day are the ones that I want to share with you.

Would I do it again? (am I talking of our original journey to France or the climb, I ask myself)
Yes. I know now that I can . That bit of fear that accompanied me would still be there, but it would not be the fear of the unknown, just a healthy, cautious instinct relating to my own capabilities.

Ten years, though. A reminder to just do it. As clichéd as it is, maybe this post will make you re-think a goal, a dream, a possibility...I hope so.

For the first part of our French adventure, as re-counted in 'But you are in France, Madame' (print or e-book) click here.

And, if you do click and purchase - thank-you.

Finally, I am linking today with #AllAboutFrance - another opportunity to travel vicariously, prepare for your next French holiday or just enjoy reading All About France.















Tuesday, 20 August 2019

Beautiful Provencal accommodation - Part One


Night falls over the village of Cabrières d'Avignon
I spent a long time looking at possibilities for our summer holiday in the South of France, knowing that any one of hundreds of little, extraordinarily beautiful and tempting villages would have made us happy. I was aware, though, that unlike our previous holiday in the area, this time we would be there pretty much in peak tourist season. I did want atmosphere and access but I didn't want interminable queues and contrived quaintness. Cabrières d'Avignon is small with a limited nightlife (one restaurant), a single bakery and small épicerie (with very expensive but fine goods) but, after a week in a much bigger village, it was exactly what I was hoping for.

And, then there was our accommodation...rather sumptuous... and with a pool and parking, just wonderful for chilled early evenings after our hot summer's days. 

So, let me show you around.


Come on in

Cute balcony. Perfect for one's first cup of tea of the morning




A gorgeous old house, lovingly restored and filled with a special something. Ambiance, I guess, which doesn't require a lot of commentary.

In my next post, I'll take you inside.

In the meantime, if you'd like to read about our early years of French living, 'But you are in France, Madame' is available here in both print and digital versions.
A bientôt!

Sunday, 11 August 2019

Tour de France tales




Our first Tour de France seems like a long time ago. Then, as Tour novices, it was exciting, colourful, loud, hot, fun...exactly as it was this year. And judging from the ages, stages and antics of those around us, we are not the only ones to feel like this.

It is as much the rhythm of the season, the return of a good friend, the thrill of the catch and the allure of a day out as it is the cycling. Roadside and pre-arrival of the cyclists, the holiday vibe is as taut as the faded lavender still swaying sporadically in the Provençal fields, and the jingles, carried poorly through the loudspeakers on the floats in the advertising caravane, work just as magically as any smooth, slinky nightclub sound. In tune with the mood, we dance, wave, cheer and dive manically for the must-have sachets of laundry liquid and mustard sauce or the key-rings, pens, hats and, crowd-favourite, Haribo lollies thrown at us by young, pretty and pretty resilient Tour girls and boys.




Just a smidgen of competitiveness infiltrates the good-natured event:

"Ils sont à vous, Madame?" I was queried after Monsieur-across-the-road scurried to join me and my advantageous position, and eye off my pile of goodies.

But no fear of fashion faux-pas. We all slip on the oversized t-shirts and slap on the one-size-fits-all polka-dot caps, unconcerned that they make of us a giant, manipulable, cost-effective advertisement. Excepting perhaps the hot-but-not-bothered policemen and the two suave individuals who draped their t-shirts elegantly over their shoulders after having carefully undone and checked the top button of their shirts...after all, the television cameras were everywhere.

For more little excerpts and images of our French life, you can find me on Instagram @butyouareinfrancemadame or here on Amazon (print or ebook available for purchase)













Saturday, 20 July 2019

Getting a flower - and a whole lot more

I knew I was being sweet-talked - a much kinder word than conned - and if you have watched the most delicious film of Gerald Durrell's 'My Family and Other Animals' you would recognise my own rascally version of would-be wooer-of-mother sea captain. This mother (me) was equally as un-wooable but my eye-patched, larger-than-life character still managed to make of me his customer.

We had just had lunch - not under the tonnelle in the Grain de Sel restaurant  (we had not booked) - but inside (relegated but seated) although still with glimpses of the Provencal countryside.

"Oh my God"

Turning my head, and seeing just an empty bowl as the new addition to the table, I furrowed my brow, which my son interpreted correctly as 'what was that all about?'

"You just have to get ready," he replied.


I burst out laughing. The getting ready to which he was referring was the impending arrival of his moules, and the empty bowl and little sachets of hand wipes was the signal to get ready. I really need no other little anecdote to describe his appreciative attention to the details, the rituals and the flavours of food: his Frenchness really.

But back to my bandit, oops sea-captain, I mean painter...

Having raced through the very pretty little village of Ansouis to procure our lunch seats (no use waiting until you are hungry), with bellies full, we strolled. And came upon a church, beautiful and cool. And came upon an open art gallery (entrée libre, Madame). It was a colourful exhibition and a couple of paintings had indeed caught my eye (they always do) but mindful of our budget, we were readying ourselves to step outside (hats, sunglasses, energy) when energy itself burst through the door carrying a large plastic bag. He caught my eye and, stripping down the plastic, entreated me to come and see his colours. Of course, I did.

"See how when you walk backwards, the shadows under the olive trees become more defined."
And, dutifully,  I stepped backwards and nodded. As did the other two curators in the room.

"I didn't do that on purpose!" (guffaw, guffaw)

But, somehow, seduced I was and ten minutes later, we exchanged money for colour on a smaller version of our original fascination. Just a little slice of Provence with a big serving of sun-filled afternoon. I am not going to reveal to you how much I paid. No, no. But, I can tell you that I did not have enough in my pockets and yet here I am, home with my new memory...and a flower. You see, as he told me, " Je vous fais une fleur." I got a bonus...and he didn't seem to mind a bit.



For more of our French stories, 'But you are in France, Madame': print and digital versions of the book available.