Thursday 24 August 2023

Love, fear and motherhood

Stormy days. Stormy nights 

‘I need help,’ the text message read.

We had chatted on the phone not long before and my daughter’s weary voice had clearly conveyed the pain that she was in and the effort that walking the few steps in the heat uphill to her room in Corfu would require. Signing off, she had promised that she would remain where she was until she felt that she had the necessary strength to do so safely.


Her ordeal had started several nights before.

“Perhaps the effects of partying too hard?” her boat captain had suggested.

“I don’t drink, so that is not it.”

“Sun stroke?”

“No. I take precautions against the heat.”


In her disorientation and needing full-time access to a bathroom, she had cut short her sailing trip, forgone a pre-paid bed in a hostel and booked a room in a guesthouse, not realising that it was on the other side of the island.


Still, there, she had no support, no easy access to medical help and the sliding door on her balcony, which adjoined that of other apartments, did not lock, giving her an additional preoccupation as a single, female traveller.


Receiving the above text message from her not long after our call came as no surprise. The content however punched with the full force of being seventeen thousand kilometres from her side.

“I’ll ring reception for you,” I said, simultaneously wondering how I was going to manage that conversation with my non-existent Greek and Googling to see if there was a local ambulance service.


“Take little sips of water and check in with us every fifteen minutes,” my husband texted independently, aware that dehydration could sneak up insidiously.


I got no response at reception, there was neither local doctor or chemist available and any chance of getting an ambulance on the island was slim.


Assistance finally came hours later in the form of an observant cleaning lady.


It was hard, so hard, to be on the other side of the world, feel my daughter’s distress and be unable to help.


But would I want to curtail her wanderings in order to minimise the likelihood of such events?




Did I consider jumping on the next flight to Greece?




Does this make me want to continue encouraging my children to seek adventure?


Yes again, as I believe in their desire to travel and their openness to encounters and rejoice in the beauty of their discoveries.


PS I’m nonetheless extremely relieved that she is now on the mend. 

Back to the beginning

Catherine's books (including her books celebrating her French-Australian life) below.

The links should take you to where you need to go, wherever you are in the world, to make a purchase.

Merci mille fois

But you are in France, Madame: One family, three children, five bags and the promise of adventure living in the French Alps

Weaving a French Life: An Australian story

Love, fear and a return to France: A family memoir

With bare feet and sandy toes: Growing up in Australia in the 1960s & 70s

Tuesday 8 August 2023

Dancing in the dining room

We bought our French village house (Le Cormoran) the year after we returned to Australia from our family’s first French adventure - about which I wrote in ‘But you are in France, Madame.’ It was a heart decision, of that there is no doubt, based on the belief that our French journey was meant to continue. At the time, my passion was such that I brushed aside the implications of inheritance rules, tax declarations, mortgage repayments, changeable home owner obligations and the not insignificant 17000 km separating us from our French home, and flung myself into a new future.


To complicate matters (and to help with the above-mentioned mortgage), we decided to share our home with travellers. Easy? No. Rewarding? Yes. Alongside weekly summer and winter rentals, we have introduced families to our village who have gone on to become permanent Talloiriens; we have welcomed back guests several years running; we have facilitated long-service leave opportunities for couples to ‘live French’ and we have witnessed the joy of multi-generational groups sharing our home.


With permission, I am sharing with you some of the email and photos that I received from recent guests, Alan and Heidi:


 … the house, the location, and the environment are just the perfect antidote to the stresses of life. Staying in Le Cormoran gave us the authentic feel of life in the heart of a French village. We loved the ambience of the house, a classic French townhouse that allows you to step out of the front door and onto Rue André Theuriet, while at the same time providing a peaceful haven both on the first floor living area and on the rear terrace with its private garden and amazing views of the Dents de Lanfon. The house itself was just what we had wanted: authentically French, with its thick walls, shuttered windows and tiled floors, tastefully furnished, and with cosy attic bedrooms (along with the ground floor bedroom). We slept in the main bedroom on the top/attic floor. This presented us with the daily reward of opening the shutters and looking down Rue André Theuriet and seeing the bottom of the lake, the mountains beyond, and the occasional hot air balloon drifting above the lake. The heating in the house in the cool early spring and the hot water supply in the ground floor shower room made for very comfortable living. We loved the easy access to the lake - just a short walk out of the garage with paddleboard under the arm. Breakfast was invariably al fresco on the terrace. We spent our evenings, when not out and about, with an evening meal and a glass or two of wine at the dining table, catching up on Netflix or – wait for it – dancing in the dining room.

And for cyclists, Alan offers some superb options:

I cycled extensively, and would strongly recommend your house to any keen cyclists. Having a Category 1 climb (the Col de la Forclaz) on the exit from the village was a treat and of course you can try out both sides. I could not quite decide which was the more severe. And there is much more within easy reach. My personal favourite is any ride that goes beyond the Col de Leschaux into the Massif des Bauges. While the lake, with all of its many viewpoints, is naturally the most spectacular feature of the region, for me the Massif des Bauges pushes it close. The road from Leschaux to Bellecombe-en-Bauges has some great views once you emerge from the trees. Other favourties include the Col de la Croix Fry, the tarte myrtle at the Col des Aravis (Restaurant les Rhodos), Le Bon Wagon bike café on the bike path at Duingt, and of course Le Semnoz.  My top tip for cycling visitors who choose the circular route around La Tournette (Talloires - Faverges – Saint- Ferreol – Col du Marais – Thones – Alex – Bluffy – and home) is to take the back road back to Bluffy from Thones. So many cyclists trudge up the main road from Thones past Alex and up the hill, but there is a fabulous backroad from Thones via Thuy (Route de Thuy) through La Balme-de-Thuy and Dingy-Saint-Clair. There is then another backroad up to the Col de Bluffy. It avoids all of the traffic. Best coffee stop in Thones? Mountains Coffee Thones, 4 Rue Blanche. Lovely people.

Not forgetting the drawcard which is the lake:

Of course, the lake is the big feature. We took Heidi’s paddleboard to Talloires and it got plenty of use – usually from “Heidi’s launch point” down the lane (Chemin de Quoex). You quickly learn that the wind always blows down the lake, so paddling down the lake first gives you quite a tough trip back. By the end of our stay, we were swimming each morning before breakfast. The water had been cold on our arrival (we had wetsuits, but didn’t use them) but by early June it was perfect.

And some practical tips for getting around:

Surprisingly, we did not make many visits into Annecy. Most of our visits were to show guests the sights or, on one occasion, to meet some friends who were camping on the other side of the lake. We cycled in a couple of times on our own bikes, but also made use of the Velonecy e-bikes. The first 30 minutes are free, and the cost rises to just €1.50 for up to an hour, although you get severely stung if you keep the bike for over an hour. But one hour is easily enough to get into Annecy. The other method of getting into Annecy is the bus – Ligne 60. Again, for a bargain €1.50 each way, you can get in and back with no hassle. We drove in a couple of times but parking is either costly or difficult and, of course, there is traffic. I certainly would avoid driving into Annecy on a Saturday or Sunday in July or August (or June, or May, for that matter).

As for supermarkets, we tried the new Carrefour at Sevrier and the Intermarche in Annecy, but settled on Carrefour at Thones as the preferred option.

... and eating out in the village:

We did not push the boat out and visit Jean Sulpice (the Michelin-starred restaurant), but we did have a very nice meal (sorry, that is understating it – a fantastic meal) at Le Cottage Bise. It is from previous stays in Le Cottage Bise that we came to know all about Talloires and why we were so delighted to find your house available to rent. We also dined a few times at the Café de la Place. Several early evenings were spent with a beer/gin and tonic on the veranda at the Beau Site Hotel across the road, again taking in views of the lake as the sun began to disappear. It is a very good spot, and the hotel looks pretty good too.

The day after we left, I started to miss my daily visits to Le Fournil de mon Père.

And this is why, despite the challenges, we continue to offer our French home for your holidays. 


For bookings, either send me an email at or visit one of the major advertising platforms, VRBO or AirBnB.

Look forward to helping your dream of a French holiday become a reality.

Catherine's books (including her books celebrating her French-Australian life) below.

The links should take you to where you need to go, wherever you are in the world, to make a purchase.

Merci mille fois

But you are in France, Madame: One family, three children, five bags and the promise of adventure living in the French Alps

Weaving a French Life: An Australian story

Love, fear and a return to France: A family memoir

With bare feet and sandy toes: Growing up in Australia in the 1960s & 70s