lundi 30 janvier 2012

ABCs of Travel

Thanks to Fraussie from Aussie in France and Andrea at Destination Europe here are my ABCs of travel.
A: Age of first international trip: I was nearly 8 when my family moved from Australia to Papua New Guinea.  My grandparents thought we were moving to the end of the earth and that they would never see us again. I think they had notions of us being taken by head-hunters.
B: Best (foreign) beer: I have never drunk beer. I just can't get past its disgusting smell.  My husband loved trying different beers when we did a home exchange to Belgium last year.  He said it was like a revelation. Until then, he didn't know beers could be so full of flavour. He did get to try quite a few beers that year.  
C: Cuisine (favourite): An easy one.  The word is French so it has to be French.  It doesn't have to be haute cuisine. I enjoy the home-cooked, traditional meals just as much.  The thing I love too is the passion that the French have for their food.  It is not just a fuel for the body but a central part of their culture and family life.  Have to love a country and its food when the discussion at one meal will invariably turn to the next meal. My homestay family in Rouen would start preparing for the evening meal as soon as breakfast was finished. Monsieur would go fishing, mushrooming, hunting etc.  Talk about fresh.
D: Destination (favourite and least favourite):  France is my favourite. I am a francophile through and through. For twenty-five years I longed to go to Paris.  Back then I didn't know anything about the other regions.  Finally as part of a 30 day European tour I got my wish.  Thankfully we had made the decision to add an extra week to the end of our trip so that we could do more than just sit in a bus driving past the sites. 
Least favourite has to be Naples. I am sure that there are some beautiful parts in Naples but unfortunately I have not seen them. Admittedly only passed through Naples to catch the boat to Corfu.

E: Event experienced abroad that made you say “wow”: Tricky one.... toss up between the lake and countryside around Annecy, the Plitvice Lakes and the Croatian coast.  I had seen many photos of Plitvice Lakes but I had always assumed that they had been touched up and that there would be a few 'ah' moments interspersed with lots of walking.  Was quite shocked to see that it was really just as spectacular as all the photos and that every few metres there was more breathtaking scenery. See Aussie in France's Sunday's Travel Photos - Plitvice Lakes, Croatia.

F: Favourite mode of transportation:  I am not one that enjoys the getting there as much as the being there. Is first class a mode of transportation???  My list, my rules - so it is in.  Doesn't mean I have ever travelled it but I know it would be my favourite.
G: Greatest feeling while travelling: Flying into Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris.  I get very emotional. I feel that I am coming home in spite of never having lived in France although I am convinced that in another life I lived there.  

H: Hottest place travelled to: I lived in Central Australia for 10 years so not sure if that counts. Otherwise it would have to be Marrakesh, Morocco.  Although it was not the peak of summer when we were there in 2011 there were a couple of days that were very hot. 

I: Incredible service experienced and where:  It would have to be the personalised service that Khalid provided us at the Riad Sekkat in Marrakesh, Morocco.  He cooked for us, drove us to Outira Valley, acted as our guide - basically he helped us on the ground with every aspect of our stay.
J: Journey that took the longest:  Flying from Paris to Adelaide the trip takes 36 hours with the 15 hour stopover in Kuala Lumpur. Excruciatingly long and tedious.  There is no glamour in flying.
K: Keepsake from travels: When we were in Spain we chose a beautiful Lladro figurine that we then had to lug around Europe for the next 5 weeks. Thankfully it was packed so well in its original box that even bouncing around in the coach it didn't get damaged.  
L: Let-down sight, why and where:  Everyone had raved about Florence and yet when we got there we felt let down. I suspect that it related to the extremely high expectations we had rather than there being anything actually 'wrong' with the place.
M: Moment where you fell in love with travel:  My high-school French classes with Madame Sarre.  Visions of fashionably dressed women sitting at cafés, people on bicycles carrying baguettes, French accordion music and the Eiffel Tower.  I studied Chartres Cathedral in my final school year and was determined that one day I would get there.  It took many visits to France before I got there. 
View from our room at Hôtel du Panthéon
N: Nicest hotel you’ve stayed in: I have been fortunate enough to stay in some beautiful hotels throughout Europe. The one I enjoyed the most was the Hotel du Panthéon.  Our room looked directly onto the Panthéon and was traditionally decorated.  Everything was like in the photos that we saw beforehand.  The staff were so kind and helpful. Since we were there in April 2011 we have sent a number of other guests there.  So far, all have been equally delighted.

O: Obsession – what are you obsessed with taking pictures of while travelling?:  Food. Although I don't limit it to just when I am travelling.  I don't know how to cook and am most appreciative and impressed by the cooking of others.

P: Passport stamps, how many and from where?:  I love the ease of travelling between European countries with the European Union but it does mean that the stamping of passports does not regularly occur.  In my new passport I have stamps from: Australia, France, Malaysia, New Caledonia, and Morocco.

Q: Quirkiest attraction you’ve visited and where:  It would have to be the tomb with heart of Richard the Lionheart in Rouen Cathedral. 

R: Recommended sight, event or experience:  Only one?  Lunch at Auberge La Ferme de Ferrières overlooking Annecy (France) is one of life's simple and memorable pleasures.  Then there is Alliance française de Rouen (for studying French), Beaujolais region and Colmar, France; Milford Sound and Queenstown, New Zealand; Prague and Cesky Krumlov, Czech Republic; Ljubljana, Slovenia.
S: Splurge; something you have no problem forking over money for while travelling: Food! Last time in Paris we lunched at Le Hôtel Bristol. We didn't know about the film 'Midnight in Paris' at the time.  It was very much a last minute decision which meant that I missed out on the sense of anticipation and also was not appropriately dressed for the occasion. I think that this did impact on my overall enjoyment of the event, which nevertheless was a wonderful experience. I discovered High Tea at the Ritz in Paris and found this an affordable, enjoyable way to experience luxury surroundings.  Having read Aussie in France's '3 Places for an Apéritif in Paris'  I may try this option as an alternative for entering gorgeous locations.
T: Touristy thing done:  Lunch with folk dance and music at restaurant in Lucerne as part of bus tour.  I should have known better. Friends had warned me to stay away from anything that used the word 'folk' in it. I should have listened.  
View looking back from La Maison d'à Côte at Lavaudieu
U: Unforgettable travel memory:  We decided to visit Lavaudieu in the Auvergne region of France. It is one of the most beautiful villages of France.  My husband decided that the shortest route would be the best so this is what we set the GPS on. Unfortunately it was not even a goat track.  The rocks on the path became bigger and bigger as did the holes. There was literally no room to turn with the forest hugging the sides of the vehicle.  My husband ended up getting out of the car to guide me along the path.  When we got to the other end and came out to a clearing there was a sign to tell us that vehicles were prohibited on the path.  A shame the sign was not on both ends.  Thankfully Lavaudieu lived up to its name and in indeed one of the most beautiful villages in France.  We ended up staying two nights at the beautiful bed and breakfast 'La Maison d'à côté'.
V: Visas, how many and for where?:  Only one visa - for Vietnam.  Unfortunately it was wasted.  Early in the morning of the day we were scheduled to leave Australia a typhoon hit and water came up to the ceiling of the ground floor trapping tourists in the upper level rooms.  We  have yet to get to Vietnam.

W: Wine, best glass of wine while travelling and where?:  Spent two months at a gîte at CLos de Haute Combe winery, Juliénas in the Beaujolais. In the evening would sit on the verandah with a glass of wine looking out over the valley and its vineyards.  It doesn't get much much better than that.
View from garden at beach house at Poe, New Caledonia
X: eXcellent view and from where?: My homestay familly in New Caledonia has a beach house about 120km from Noumea.  Their yard goes directly to the beach so I could sit on a log looking out at the beach.  It was total bliss. 
Y: Years spent travelling?:  Nearly 35 years.... I’m not going to say as that will give away my age but let’s just say a lot but not enough.
Z: Zealous sports fans and where:  We had an apartment at Clichy on the outskirts of Paris that necessitated changing  metro lines.  We got out of the metro and were swamped and overwhelmed by thousands of football (soccer) fans beating drums, singing and yelling.  The crowd prevented us getting to the appropriate exit so we decided to out via the entrance.  We had to climb steps lugging heavy suitcases against the flow of commuters who were not impressed by our antics.  It was not a pleasant experience to say the least.

Now it is over the following bloggers who I am tagging to continue on with their own ABCs of travel:

dimanche 29 janvier 2012

'Un même mot peut recouvrir plusieurs réalités'

I don't know why I haven't seen before this advertisement from Orange. I came across it thanks to a comment posted by Julie Charmand on Julia Gueron's blog post 'Buy this article. Or Love it. Either or.' on My French Life.  Thanks ladies.

French version:

The ad emphasises that even when we communicate in our own language without concerns about cultural misunderstandings that words can still have various meanings and therefore can be construed differently. Only two examples are given for each of the words in these ads unlike in the video 'Le mot indispensable en français' which show just about endless possibilities for one single word depending on the nuance.

English version:

vendredi 27 janvier 2012

French Children Don't Throw Food - Fact or fallacy

The UK Guardian newspaper reviewed earlier this month the book 'French Children Don't Throw Food' by Pamela Druckerman. The book promotes French parenting over that of anglophones. Pamela comes from New York, married an Englishman and then moved to Paris to llive. I have not read the book so it is not possible to comment accurately on its contents. 

I have seen some very well behaved children in French restaurants but I am also aware that a large number of French families would not be in a position go to these. What I have therefore seen is not a representative sample of French children's behaviour. Should good behaviour in children be an end in itself or is it one of the consequences of a loving, secure environment where limits are set? 

What is particularly interesting are the comments received about the review and the commentary by Agnès Poirier. There are comments about the downfalls and inaccuracies of stereotyping this then seems to be replaced by comments comparing the UK and French educational systems. 

The comment by bjerkley says it all:
No one has the answers on good parenting, but it's a fascinating insight into our paranoia over children that we spend so much time obsessing over it.

mercredi 25 janvier 2012

Want to know the secrets of a lazy French cook?

SBS Food is runing an online competition to win a copy of Marie-Morgane Le Moël’s Secrets of a Lazy French Cook. The competition closes on 8 February 2013. You do need to sign in or register with SBS Food to enter.
Marie-Morgane Le Moël’s Secrets of a Lazy French Cook is a charming part-memoir, romantic story, and part French recipe book. It tells the story of Marie’s experiences in Australia, incorporating her mother’s amazing French recipes, cooking tips and the stories behind particular dishes. You can take the girl out of France, but can you take France out of the girl?
For those of you who unlike me, know how to cook, SBS Food have provided two of Marie-Morgane's recipes online:
They also have a part of their site dedicated to French cuisine.  At this stage it is relatively small but I see that you can submit recipes so probably worthwhile checking back every now and again.

Paris: Walks

I am basically a very lazy person. I don't exercise and rarely walk. When I get to France this all changes.  I don't really understand why.  I get off the plane at Charles de Gaulle airport at about 6.00am.  I am already planning where I will head to first once I have deposited my luggage.  I have been known to be beating the Parisian footpaths by 8.00am. I am no longer in charge of my body.  The spirit of Paris has taken over!  
I will have an extended period of time this year in Paris and will be travelling alone, so I have been madly researching walks and other free things to do.  Every guide book, every French related blog and website seem to cover these to a greater or lesser extent.  

I hadn't had a look at the Mairie de Paris website in a number of years.  Thankfully it has greatly improved and has some wonderful information for tourists as well as locals. The site can still be somewhat confusing to find all of its rich resources.  Their site has 38 heritage walks (in English and French). What I particularly like is that a number of them that seem to be more than just the same well trodden tourist paths.  Not that there is anything wrong with them, but I want to discover 'new' sites and places. The problem is going to be to decide which ones to do. 

In addition to the heritage walks there are also what they call 'Paris Film Trails'. Whether it is 'Midnight in Paris', 'Ratatouille' or 'Devil wears Prada', they and many others are there with bilingual flyers and maps to discover both famous and little-known parts of  Paris that have featured in 'classic' movies.

City Free Tour  provides free guided walks in English both in Paris as well as Amsterdam. The idea is that you give a tip at the end of the tour based on what you think it is worth. Their user reviews on Tripadvisor are rather impressive but I don't know anyone who has done it yet.

Mairie de Paris - Les Balades du Patrimoine
Mairie de Paris - Les Parcours Cinémas
City Free Tour - Paris

samedi 21 janvier 2012

Alliance Française French Film Festival 2012

The line up of 45 films for the Alliance Française French Film Festival 2012 has been announced. The Festival will run from 6 March to 9 April in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Canberra, Adelaide and Perth.

From Wednesday 1 February 2012 you will be able to advance purchase tickets and find out details of the full programme, screening schedule and special events. I strongly recommend you advance purchase your tickets if you want to be sure of getting to see a particular film or if you don't want to end up sitting in the front row staring up at the screen. I know from experience that many of the sessions in Adelaide sell out.  

Check out the official website,, for more information and to register and receive updates on the festival as well as a chance to win prizes. You can also follow the Festival on their Facebook and Twitter page to get the latest updates.

The opening film is 'Declaration of War - La guerre est déclarée'.  
It is based on real-life events experienced by filmmaker Valérie Donzelli and co-star/writer Jérémie Elkaïm.  It tells the powerful story of a young Parisian couple suddenly dragged from their carefree existence by an unexpected twist of fate. watch trailer here

The closing film is the François Truffaut's classic 'The Last Metro - Le dernier métro'.
Paris, 1942. Paris is under Nazi occupation. Catherine Deneuve plays Marion Steiner, who is left to manage a small theatre company, the Montmartre, when her Jewish husband Lucas is forced into exile under the German occupation of Paris. Marion stars in the company's new play, The Disappearance, alongside Bernard Granger (Gérard Depardieu), a womanising but talented actor who is also a member of the Resistance. As Bernard's passion for Marion grows, emotional complications arise between the two and loyalties are compromised due to their respective connections. watch trailer here

jeudi 19 janvier 2012

La pensée du jour...pour les grammairiens

Merci à Charlotte, prof de français en Nouvelle-Zélande, pour avoir partagé cette citation:

"Oublie ton passé, qu'il soit simple ou composé, participe à ton présent pour que ton futur soit plus-que-parfait...."

mercredi 18 janvier 2012

Kitchen controversies

In late 2010, the United Nation's cultural organisation, UNESCO, awarded world heritage listing to France's traditional gastronomic meal, with its associated rites and presentation.  It was listed as an intangible culture treasure.

Wind the clock forward just over a year. Media reporters and bloggers are highlighting the growing practice in some restaurants of misrepresenting food as being fresh and prepared on site when in fact it sometimes has been frozen or prepackaged. Paris Notebook blogger, Phyllis Flick, in her post 'Is There a Chef in the Kitchen? What some restaurateurs in France don’t want you to know' says
'Some estimates say that up to two-thirds of France’s 120,000 restaurants rely on industrial products.'
In the Rue 89 article 'Resto : et si on nous disait ce qu'il y a vraiment dans notre assiette ?' Camille d'Aillières asks:
'Y a-t-il (encore) un chef pour faire la cuisine ?'
Frozen food or prepackaged food is not necessarily worse than freshly prepared food. The snap freezing of food may provide products that retain their original nutrients and taste also sometimes. The issue however is in the passing off of food as fresh or prepared by the chef when in fact it has been frozen, preserved and prepacked. The hidden cameras in the reports show cases of restauranteurs lying both by omission and admission.

Video is in French.

(c+) : Restauration française: les pieds dans le... by 20thcenturyfox
La France est-elle encore le temple de la gastronomie tradtionnelle ? De plus en plus de gourmets commencent à en douter. En effet, des restaurants se piquant de défendre une cuisine authentique se sont en fait détournés de la qualité. D'aucuns se demandent même s'il y a encore un cuisinier derrière les fourneaux ! Les casseroles cèdent le pas au four à micro-ondes, les plats mitonnés sont évincés au profit des surgelés. Les méthodes ont considérablement évolué. Arômes en spray, appellations mensongères, assiettes toutes prêtes et fabriquées en usine sont les nouveaux outils en vogue dans la restauration. Un restaurant peut ainsi proposer quinze plats différents avec seulement deux personnes en cuisine.

lundi 16 janvier 2012

Sortir à Paris : Les 100 choses qu'il faut avoir faites dans sa vie à Paris

En décembre 'Le Figaro' a publié une liste de 100 choses qu'on doit faire à Paris. C'est une liste discutable.  Néanmoins c'est une liste très pratique. J'en ai fait peu donc je dois passer plus de temps à Paris.  

Combien avez-vous fait?

Please don't hesitate to correct my French!

vendredi 13 janvier 2012

Paris Pastry iPhone App

I confess to not having heard of David Lebovitz, the American pastry chef and cooking book author, who has lived in Paris since 1999. His book 'The Sweet Life in Paris' not only tells about personal adjustments required when living in Paris but also includes around 50 recipes.

In December David released his iPhone app 'Paris Pastry'. (I love my Android phone but sometimes I really wish I had the ubiquitous iPhone.) The paid app includes more than 300 pastry and chocolate shops in Paris. There is also a free 'lite' version which provides a free preview of the top 25. There are also plans to release an ebook version of the information later this month. It sounds like a very useful application but unfortunately early reviews on iTunes of the app are not favourable. People seem to be impressed with the contents but they note issues in the execution of the app. They say it keeps closing down and is slow to load. Problems with the maps are also noted. Quel dommage! Hopefully they will sort all of this out quickly.  With the plethora of smartphone applications for Paris I can see that the landscape of tourists clutching their guidebooks will be replaced with those glued to their telephone screens seeking out the hidden secrets of Paris.

What are your favourite smartphone applications you use when visiting France?  I plan to do a post on these in the future.  

mercredi 11 janvier 2012

Le mot indispensable en français

Merci à Fraussie who sent me a link to this video following on from my post 'How to fake speaking French'.  I have only just discovered her absolutely delightful blog 'Aussie in France'.  I am sure that you will enjoy it as much as I am.  

In this video the the girl explains how to communicate in French through the use of just one indispensable word.  I would love to read your comments.

How to fake speaking French

Looks like I didn't need lessons at the Alliance or CREIPAC!

samedi 7 janvier 2012

Il était une fois 4 individus....

Petite histoire... sympa ...que je relaie grâce à Valérie :

Il était une fois 4 individus qu'on appelait
Tout le monde - Quelqu'un - Chacun - et Personne.

Il y avait un important travail à faire,
Et on a demandé à Tout le monde de le faire.
Tout le monde était persuadé que Quelqu'un le ferait.
Chacun pouvait l'avoir fait, mais en réalité Personne ne le fit.

Quelqu'un se fâcha car c'était le travail de Tout le monde !
Tout le monde pensa que Chacun pouvait le faire
Et Personne ne doutait que Quelqu'un le ferait

En fin de compte, Tout le monde fit des reproches à Chacun
Parce que Personne n'avait fait ce que Quelqu'un aurait pu faire. 

*** MORALITÉ ***

Sans vouloir faire de reproche à Tout le monde,
Il serait bon que Chacun fasse ce qu'il doit faire
Sans nourrir l'espoir que Quelqu'un le fera à sa place.

Car l'expérience montre que là où on attend Quelqu'un, généralement on ne trouve Personne !

Exotic Marrakech and Riad Sekkat

Arch and I had a week in Marrakech in May 2011 staying at the beautiful Riad Sekkat.  Apart from our first night we had the entire Riad to ourselves.  The Riad is within the old walled part of the city, the Medina, so we were able to easily walk around to visit most of the sites. To describe the Medina as hustling and bustling is a gross understatement.  It absolutely teems with life.  At first this can be a bit overwhelming, but I found it all fascinating and really loved it. Having the tranquil oasis of Riad Sekkat within the Medina was fantastic.  It meant that if I needed a 'Nanna nap' in the afternoon, or a break from people watching, it was only a quick walk back to the sanctuary of the Riad.  Bliss.   

Riad Sekkat is decorated in traditional style with great taste, refinement and attention to detail.  Our room was air-conditioned and also had a fan.  From the roof-top terrace we could see I think 6 mosques.  It was fun in the evenings watching people unobserved from the roof-top.  We were able to connect our laptop to make use of the unlimited wifi access.  Whilst I didn't make full use of the plunge-pool, I did enjoy sitting on the edge paddling my tired feet in the cool water (sometimes with a gin and tonic). 

Khalid and Najah came during the day to prepare our meals, clean the rooms etc.  It was fantastic opportunity for me to practice my French.  We chose to have our evening meals at the Riad so that we could enjoy authentic Moroccan cuisine.  As a bonus, Khalid would show us, well Arch actually, the secrets of Moroccan cuisine.  Given that Arch has no French and Khalid little English, there was a lot of gesticulating to explain things and laughter.  Khalid did have to work extra hard on Arch's presentation of the food. Khalid would carefully rearrange the Arch's disarray of vegetables on top of the couscous so that they were evenly placed and pleasing to look at.  Every morning for breakfast we had different types of freshly made breads in addition to other delicacies.  

Initially we planned to visit other cities and towns but we found there was so much to see and do in Marrakech that we actually only did a one-day trip with Khalid to the edge of the Atlas mountains.  From my first email enquiry to Valérie, who owns Riad Sekkat, I knew that we were on to 'a good thing'. Valérie didn't only answer the questions I had but pre-empted what I was going to ask.  She was so helpful, friendly and professional, yet personable all rolled together.  During our time in the Riad Khalid and Najah attended our every need.  They even organised an in-house massage for Arch with gorgeous 20 year-old girl, a visit to a true, non-touristy hammam for me (not for the faint-hearted - although I have never felt so clean and refreshed) and when I mentioned I wanted to buy things or look at something, Khalid was happy to oblige.  Valérie, Khalid and Najah went out of their way to personally ensure that our trip was memorable, exciting, and revealing.

I strongly recommend that if you can, visit Marrakech and stay at Riad Sekkat.  Visiting this francophone country has really opened up my eyes and made me realise that I can use my French beyond France metropole.  

mercredi 4 janvier 2012

Connecteurs logiques - exercices en ligne

Looking for some online exercises to practice those pesky conjunctions. Look no further than these methodically presented ones.  I tend to just use the same ones all the time.  Hopefully these will help me be a bit more creative.

Après avoir consulté la fiche-outil, entraîne-toi grâce à cette batterie d’exercices pour devenir imbattable en la matière! Choisis toi-même l’objectif que tu souhaites atteindre et le niveau de difficulté de l’exercice (0=facile, 3=difficile)

Here is another page tackling the same topic:  Connecteurs logiques : Enchaînons! : Insuf-FLE...:  The handout looks like it will be very useful.

Bon courage.

lundi 2 janvier 2012

Haute Provence with Lingua Franca Tours

In December 2010 I had the pleasure of meeting the charming, dynamic Ruth Bourchier, New Zealand National Language Adviser (French) at a conference in Sydney.  In January, Ruth will be finishing up in her role and will be leading language, cultural and gastronomic immersion tours in Haute Provence.  In partnership with Vincent Mespoulet, a colleague from Manosque, she will be leading two 14-day language, cultural and gastronomic immersion tours in the Haute Provence region in May and June. Vincent has devised a varied and wonderful range of activities and found a magnificent 18th century home-away-from-home where participants will be based, complete with resident gourmet chef who also does cooking classes on request.

If you have Francophile friends who are learning French or who would be interested in improving their communication skills in real situations rather than in a classroom please send them this link to their website and encourage them to contact Ruth for further details. 
Although the site refers to Kiwi francophones, Australian participants are more than welcome!

dimanche 1 janvier 2012

Belle année 2012 et une nouvelle page de wiki

Je vous souhaite une belle année 2012. Que cette prochaine année soit douce pour vos proches et vous même.

Je viens d'ajouter une page au wiki femmes francophiles avec des liens pour les bonnes adresses françaises en Australie:

N'hésitez pas ajouter les vôtres ou me les envoyer.
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