Tuesday 24 July 2018

A Parisian Life - Part Three

Today I am sharing with you the third and final part in the series 'A Parisian Life'.

In Part One Tahnee introduces herself and her family, talks about why they made the decision to go and live in France, and takes us through the busy period prior to their departure from Australia.

In Part Two, we hear more about the day-to-day life of the family once in Paris and, in particular, how Tahnee's three children managed the transition.

If you are thinking of doing the same thing - going and living with your family/children in France, I know that Tahnee would be more than happy to answer any questions that you might have (@treasuredjourneys) as would I.  

I hope that you enjoy Part Three. Bonne lecture!

Can you share with us a couple of the most memorable experiences of your time in France? 

Occasions that bring back happy memories are the times we shared with people. To give you just one example: Our first stop on a big road trip was in Dijon. My husband had met some people through mutual friends whilst on a previous work trip in France. They had said to him to please call them if ever we were in Dijon and invited us to their family home. We were met with such warmth and hospitality. Only two people out of eight spoke English, but this didn’t prove any difficulty as conversations flowed; it was magical. The grandparents' garden was amazing, they grew a lot of produce and lived off what they grew. Perhaps it was because we hadn’t been around our own extended family in quite a few months, but being there and being shown around their garden made us feel part of something. The kids enjoyed picking raspberries, seeing all the things that were growing, hearing the spoken French and being with people who were so welcoming. We felt like we were with family, or that we had known them for a long while. 

It’s funny because you will read that French people are usually very reserved, and not too willing to find new friendships, or let people in. This for us could not have been further from the truth. We found the people we interacted with to be warm, inclusive and simply lovely. Everywhere we went we were always made to feel welcome.

My French tutor became my friend. I discovered that her husband was just as passionate about wine as my husband. So we arranged a dinner for our families to meet. All of us had a wonderful time, and many subsequent dinners and outings occurred. Our children still keep in contact with each other. 

Even my beautician (who did home visits for waxing!) became my friend. In fact, after only being back in Australia for three months, she came to visit us for three weeks. 

My children would say that dog sledding through the snow, ice skating on the Eiffel Tower, parasailing through the waters of Monaco, tree top climbing in Provence, electric bike riding through Champagne, swimming in the ocean in Cannes, visiting the battlefields in Normandy, picking lavender in Sault, eating falafels in the Marais, getting their tongue stuck on an icy pole from their favourite icy pole shop, scootering through the streets of Paris, floating boats in the pond at the Luxembourg gardens, being in a school drama production, would be just a few of their favourite things. They were extremely fortunate to have done so much, including travelling throughout Europe, and to have seen and experienced so many different things.

Another highlight for us was the Eiffel Tower. Every night the large light that rotates 360 degrees would shine straight into our living room. We all loved seeing this and on the hour loved watching her twinkle away. Every night my youngest son and I would stand by the window and say goodnight to her, and wait for her bright light to shine directly at us. We never tired of this and did this every single night.

Back now in Australia, what do you miss the most? How do the children view their French adventure?

There is not a day that goes by that I don’t think of our time there. I can truly say I loved it, and if I could move back, I would. As easy as life is here in Australia, I would still move back. I miss the city, the buzz, the people, the language, the culture. There is so much to do there, you’re never bored. Also being so close to so many countries is amazing. The ability to travel and not take a lot of time to get to other European cities is fabulous. I found we did more on weekends there than back home. We made the effort to go to different places and not sit around. There certainly were weekends at home too, when schoolwork and assignments ruled over going anywhere, there were times where we did simply sit at home and relax. But with so much to do and see, exploring was always something that we really wanted to be doing. We didn’t want to stay indoors, we wanted to find out about other villages and towns. Australia is spread out so widely, so to do what we did in France doesn’t happen here, as places take considerably longer to get to.

I loved showing friends around who came to stay with us. Seeing Paris through fresh eyes is a delight and to see their wonder and excitement made us all so happy. The kids were so happy to be tour guides and share their knowledge. This showed us how much they had taken in, understood and remembered. I loved listening to them and found this really special.

The children recognize and understand how fortunate they have been. The gifts of travel and of living overseas have been invaluable. We are constantly talking about our time away. I like to do this to keep the memories alive, especially for my youngest son, as these early childhood memories are easily forgotten. So far so good. They are still there. He even reminds me of things we did.

I took them back to Paris after we had been home for eleven months. We were all missing it so much, we needed a little Parisian fix. The first day we were there they all said to me that they felt like they were home and we all felt very peaceful. I love how they know their way around the city, and know where they’d like to go. I often think that when they go back as adults with friends, it will be a very familiar place for them, that they won’t really be a tourist, it will be their second home.

Overall, would you recommend the experience to other families?

Life is too short, we need to get out there and live it.
It’s very easy to get into your comfort zone and remain there. We chose to shake things up, to turn our kids' world upside down, we showed them a different way of life. To show them that different can be normal as much as normal can be different, was a life lesson indeed!  We chose to challenge ourselves, to try a new way of life. The point is - we chose. Everything in life is a choice, and this is the path we chose, and have benefitted from it greatly. 

My husband and I wanted our children to learn to appreciate what they have in life, to acquire tolerance and understanding of others. It isn’t easy but, in the end, I think we’re all trying to do our best, no one is perfect, but with love and understanding it makes things a little easier. 

To any person thinking of making a lifestyle change, I say 'go for it'. There is so much to gain from the experiences you create, memories to treasure forever. I am sure that the children really do appreciate and are grateful for what we did for them which is really nice. They will often reflect and say things to us that show that their experiences have provided them with a rich tapestry in education.

Thank-you, again, Tahnee for chatting with me and sharing your story and pictures. It has been a real pleasure. I'm sure that you have inspired many other families, and definitely given some ideas for future dinner-table conversations.

Read Part One here and Part Two here

***Our family story was slightly different, but based most probably on the same ideas of 'doing things differently', living a rich family life and loving France. We set off to the Alps for one year and ended up staying for many. I wrote about our experience in 'But you are in France, Madame'. It can be purchased on Amazon, here or contact me directly on cb222@me.com ***

Friday 20 July 2018

No Beef with these bikes

Cadel Evans with my girls in Bordeaux in 2010
The 2018 Tour passed along the road through Menthon-Saint-Bernard

Here I go again. Talking about food when I have no right to do so. But, in honour of the Tour de France - a race that I have come to know and love over the last ten years - we made a French meal. Actually, we never need an excuse for this, and I use the term 'we' loosely. I watched, took photos and sampled the red wine as the beef stew (boeuf bourguignon) was being put together.

But, back to the bikes. In 2009, we were in the final months of preparation before our family adventure (which would take us from living in Melbourne to living in France) when the Tour passed through Annecy. I stayed up that night to watch the SBS coverage on Australian television and, as my interest to that point in the Tour was scanty and my knowledge sketchy, I didn't understand a lot of what was going on: the idea of teams working together for one lead rider, the different specialists within the teams, the terms and duration of the Tour, the names of the riders etc. was all unfamiliar territory. I can't tell you who won that stage, where the race went after Annecy and had to look up the eventual overall winner (Contador), but I can tell you that that night was thrilling. It was a turning point of sorts, as it had been suggested to all of our friends that they, too, should stay up late to see our future hometown. After years of planning, there was no alternative but to finally walk our talk...and go.

I now feel like an old hand. Not only did Annecy again feature this year as a start town for the 10th stage, Taste Le Tour with Gabriel Gaté visited Le Père Bise in our village, Talloires. Go to Series 14, Episode 10 for more.

***Purchase your copy of 'But you are in France, Madame', which takes you with us on our French adventure, at Amazon, here ***


Sunday 8 July 2018

French love Down Under

A quick post today, to share some photos from an inaugural Bastille Festival in Sydney. We celebrated a week early, but the love for France in Australia is in evidence as, not only were there large numbers around me today, but Brisbane is hosting a big festival this weekend, Melbourne hosts theirs on July 14 and 15, Circular Quay in Sydney celebrates over four big days Thurs 12 through to Sun 15 July, the Sunshine Coast holds their festival on the 28th July...and that is just a small selection of all of the parties, get-togethers, balls, special film sessions etc. to celebrate the French National Day Down Under. I was the guest of French Cargo and spent a lovely morning with Kathie signing books and chatting to her customers. I might just take this opportunity to say 'thank-you' to Kathie. She has been such a wonderful support for me and this writing venture.

***Purchase your copy of 'But you are in France, Madame', which takes you with us on our French adventure, at Amazon, here ***

Tuesday 3 July 2018

A circular, culinary blog

I have lived and breathed the French language for a very long time. Yet, every once in a while,  a word comes my way that requires a bit of extra thought. I don't mean the words that are new to me but that I understand because of their context, or words that I have forgotten and that I can jiggle to the surface. I mean words that I know, but that don't seem to make sense in context. Writing about how to make a baguette last blog led me down several cooking related paths including to the salt farms of Brittany and the following:

La Fleur de Sel, Le Guérandais, est délicatement cueillie, selon une méthode traditionnelle millénaire, à la surface de l'eau des oeillets par les paludiers de Guérande. 

But, un oeillet is a carnation (or an eyelet). Of course, a carnation is a flower and the fine salt (La Fleur de Sel) that is being collected is so-called because of the flower-like patterns of the crystals that form in the salt crust as the seawater evaporates. But, this is somewhat of a false path.*

In fact, in the salt harvesting process, sea water passes through a succession of ponds and it is the final set of ponds that are known as the 'œillets'. Is this more related to the winding related to eyelets?

An interview with chef, Jamie Oliver, in which he talked about his mentor, a lady named Rose, came up in conversation. She was strong, kind, clever, someone who, according to Jamie, favoured simplicity and taught him to focus always on what he could do better. A 'salt of the earth' sort of person.

And then, absent-mindedly, I picked up a cook book that I have had on my coffee table for a very long time, but have probably never done anything more than flick through distractedly. I like the idea of cooking. I love the idea of being a good cook. But, sadly that is where the passion seems to start and stop. This time, though, I read the About section of the cookbook; a human story, which is of far more interest to me, and learnt that the writer/chef Patricia Wells and her husband's

"...love of France grew...Almost before we'd unpacked our bags in Provence, we had more French friends than we had made in all our time in Paris. Within a year, we could no longer even remember life before Provence. For us, it symbolised all the essential elements of happiness we sought in life - friends, family, food, and feasts."

Now, this was something that I could really relate to, and took me on a bigger wander around her book...which led to the Fleur de Sel.

Strangely enough, it was not just me baking last weekend, My FB posts attracted return comments from both Annette at A French Collection and Mardi from eat.live.travel.write who is about to publish a...cookbook.

*as far as I can tell - please do let me know if there is indeed a connection.

***Purchase your copy of 'But you are in France, Madame', which takes you with us on our French adventure, at Amazon, here ***