Wednesday, 15 June 2016

Cows and alarm clocks

A couple of days ago, my husband was out walking in the mountains behind our house late in the afternoon when he heard the gentle clanging of cow bells. Instinctively, he looked for his phone. No, not to take a photo - he did that later, but to turn off his alarm clock. I had to laugh when he recounted the story to me. To explain...when returning to Australia after living in France and looking for a more pleasant wake-up sound than a jarring 'beep, beep, beep',  he took a sound bite of cow bells and set it as his morning alarm. Even in sight of the large beasts, his sub-conscious did a jolt to another time and response and nearly tricked him into hitting the 'slumber' button.

Back home and tidying up in the garden, he stripped some ivy off one of the verandah posts and uncovered a cow bell that we had hung there and which, over time, had been completely hidden from view. It seemed like the house was offering us a little 'welcome back to France' present. 

The cows had been a part of our French adventure from the very beginning. Stumbling into an October "Descente des Alpages', in our first year there, we had watched the slowly moving creatures, weighed down by their enormous bells, parade through the streets of Annecy, alongside highly excited geese, necks proudly stretched upright to allow us better viewing of their beautiful bows, groups of disorderly goats reminiscent of the cheeky but loveable souls that can always be found in any school class and pretty donkeys wearing straw hats and flowers. It had been a lucky mistake to be in the middle of it all and, thereafter, the sound of the cows and their bells, which woke us in the mornings and accompanied myself and the children on our daily walks to school, claimed a high ranking in our favourite sounds of the French Alps.

To read more of my family's French adventures, please click here to get your copy of 'But you are in France, Madame'. A Kindle Countdown deal for Amazon UK and USA account holders has just begun.

Hello to readers on Faraway Files. This is my first link-up. I hope it works!

Tuesday, 7 June 2016


My husband sends me photos like these...and accompanies them with tantalising descriptions of strolling through the Annecy market with the smell of roasting chickens, their potatoes swimming in rather large quantities of fat underneath, floating in the air.

He's there and I'm not, more's the pity. 

And, the cheese ... I still remember my surprise when first I discovered that you could buy cheese, like wine, by its year. It was in our early days in Annecy when I was still rather over-awed by the speed with which market transactions took place and the amount that I did not know about good, fresh, locally produced food. No doubt it was just to bring me back to that pleasant moment of discovery that my husband lashed out and bought a slab of 2014 Summer Beaufort, alongside the Tommettes Fermières pictured.

As an aside, the Tomme de Savoie (the tommettes above are smaller versions of the Tomme) is celebrating its 20th year since being awarded an IGP (Indication Géographique Protégée). If you are a cheese lover, it is at this must-visit site (excerpt below), dedicated to this cheese, that you will be regaled with recipes, health facts, production secrets and more.

La Tomme de Savoie fête ses 20 ans d'IGP

La Tomme de Savoie est fière de fêter cette année les 20 ans de son IGP !Ce signe officiel garantit la qualité et l'origine d'un fromage fabriqué dans le respect d'un cahier des charges strict. Seule la véritable Tomme de Savoie IGP est habilitée à porter le fameux marquage "Savoie" qui la différencie et la rend reconnaissable entre toutes.

To the delightful aroma of the roasting chickens add the look of the bread, the smell of which I can imagine from the other side of the world, the anticipation of the rows and rows of strawberries, the baskets full of a mixed variety of tomatoes, the crazy shapes of the capsicums and the sweetest mini rockmelons anywhere and you have just another normal day at the markets in France...lucky, lucky husband.

Saturday, 28 May 2016

Markets and vide-greniers

First...and last coffee of the day. No time!

I had a lovely Saturday recently on the Central coast of New South Wales attending the French Country Market, held on the grounds of the Chertsey primary school. I booked and ran a stall and it was a pleasure to spend the day chatting to fellow francophiles about my book and our French house, which we have on holiday let.

French Country Market - Chertsey

Our little stall in Chertsey

We were clearly the amateur stand alongside the well-polished stalls! The last time that we had done something similar was when we were living in France and we participated in the Talloires vide-grenier, literally 'empty attic', the equivalent of a whole village garage sale.

Vide-grenier - Talloires

  • Both days were in May and, for us as stallholders, they started at the crack of dawn, were amazingly tiring but were brilliant fun. 
  • We sold more than we were expecting!
  • Both were friendly places where people happily stopped to chat and swap stories. 

Our little stall in Talloires, looking out over the Annecy Lake.
  • The weather... A few days out of winter here in Australia, and despite the fact that I started the day wearing a coat and jumper, by 9 o'clock I was wishing that I had dressed in shorts and tee-shirt.
  • The setting - as the photos attest - French village v. Australian bush.
  • Australians don't haggle like the French do!

Friday, 20 May 2016

In the newspaper !

I know it is not the New York Times, but thank our local Sydney paper, the Manly Daily, for the mention...

Wednesday, 11 May 2016


Highs or lows; reds or blues; g'days or bonjours; same spiritual connection...

My husband returned from a work trip last night. He had been to far central west Queensland and, from Sydney, it had taken him 28 hours to get there by car, 3 planes, car, an overnight stop and then a 6-hour flat bitumen and dirt road trip. Along the final leg of the journey, a distance of nearly 400 km, he passed a car - one. There was a bit more life at the only roadside shed/pub, where he stopped to have a Diet Coke and was gently ribbed by one of the, well, I presume, locals, for "living it up, mate!"

Job completed he turned around to do the whole lot again that same afternoon, hoping to make it past Winton to Longreach for his next day's flight out. There were no rooms to be had at the inn or anywhere else. A rugby league carnival had come to town.

Undeterred, he took a room in Winton and shared it with the thousands of bugs that commandoed their way into his room around locked door and window frames, to keep him company. Astute he is, my husband. He calmly turned on the air conditioning until the flying insects could shiver no more and got a few hours of rest, before completing the last 180 km to Longreach and his next plane.

I thought I'd share his journey with you.

From the French mountains to the Australian desert plains; the bright blues and greens of the Annecy Lake to the many shades of outback red; the sensual sounds of the French oh là là to the slow, unhurried Aussie drawl - you can see for yourselves how we live our different lives.