Showing posts with label france. Show all posts
Showing posts with label france. Show all posts

Saturday, 1 April 2017

A quick trip to France with your Book Club?




I have been asked recently to provide some ideas for book club discussions of 'But you are in France, Madame'. Where possible, I am happy to attend your book club meeting but, if you live too far away (outside the Sydney area!), I hope that the flyer (above) that I have put together might promote lots of fun and lively discussions. Contact me on cb222@me.com and I will send you a pdf for printing or distribution to your book club members.

A reminder, too, of the different purchase options (see below) for 'But you are in France, Madame'. 

Print Books.

Blurb Online Books: CLICK HERE
Amazon: CLICK HERE

Kindle Editions

Amazon USA:  CLICK HERE
Amazon Australia:  CLICK HERE
Amazon UK:  CLICK HERE
Amazon France:  CLICK HERE

Other Formats

eBook fixed page format for iBooks and iPad via Blurb: CLICK HERE

Or

Contact Catherine on cb222@me.com 

$30 to have a print copy sent within Australia (includes postage)
$20 print copy - collected in person from Catherine in Sydney


Finally, if you would like to continue discussing my book, bilingual education, purchasing in France or moving with your family, I would love to hear from you!

Thursday, 16 March 2017

Le Fabuleux Village des Flottins


In 2009, newly arrived in France and knowing no-one, we consulted our guide books regularly for ideas on what to do and see. At the time, the name Evian made me think only of bottled water. I had no idea that Evian-les-Bains was a sizeable village (approx. 9000) on the Lac Léman (Lake Geneva) and very close to where we were living. Funnily enough, it was not rated highly in our guide book and was even considered particularly dull in winter. Prompted by an ad on a bread wrapper, similar to the one below, we went anyway.



It was a cold winter's day, so cold that the spray from the lake had set solid on benches and around the tyres of cars and created dramatic temporary sculptures. It was definitely the sort of day where sitting by a fire or inside a café would have been more comfortable than strolling outdoors. Except that we were not just in Evian, we were in the Village des Flottins in Evian, where we encountered live elves and mystical (human) beings hanging out with enormous inanimate driftwood creatures. Legend has it that these warm and hospitable creatures, who arrive each year and set up their village in Evian, rescued Father Christmas and his reindeer after an altercation amongst the reindeer on a training run meant an urgent landing for Le Père Noël and his party in the waters of the Lake. He now stops in to see them annually as he is passing by.




These photos are from this year's festival, the tenth, which now includes old-fashioned games for the children such as the ones that you can see in the photos below; the closest is a recycled dancing marionette; the second, made of wood has a pull-back lever which when released propels a ball up an inclined wooden chute and where the aim of the game is to get the ball high enough for it to fall through a hole in the chute.


The parent-powered merry-go-round was popular with the young children. They sat in metal bucket seats and circled in a slow, leisurely fashion: a far-cry from the roller-coasters and mechanical fairground rides of today.


Ten years ago, there were twenty sculptures. Now, there are more than 650. These days, the festival mobilises the whole community. They gather the driftwood from the lake shore, dream up the ideas for the sculptures and then help with the fabrication. Schoolchildren and their teachers compete to invent creative sayings to write on the shopwindows in the village. All is done with the most pure of ecological intentions.


Happy to have ignored the advice of our guidebook the first year, it has now become a must-do on our Christmas calendar. If you happen to be in or near Evian in winter, pop past to enjoy this event, which proudly differentiates itself by not being a Christmas market. 
In fact,
 "Ici, rien n'est à vendre. Tout est à rêver et à imaginer".

Bye friendly flottins.
Until next year...
Linking today with #allaboutfrance


Thursday, 2 February 2017

We made it back to France



It is hard when you live in two countries. It is harder still when they happen to be nearly 17000 km apart, require on average 30 hours of travel time and several months salary to pay for the family to get there, knowing all the while that you are setting yourself up for certain mind-numbing jet lag and seasonal confusion. Without careful thought, what you wear to board your plane at one end can severely compromise your comfort at the other (think stepping out into negative temperatures in shorts and t-shirts or stripping off jumpers, coats and scarves to combat 35-degree heat). Living in Australia, that's what French love is all about.

We had planned our long-awaited family return to France for the beginning of December, taking a few indulgences regarding the school calendar (which officially released the children on Dec 17) in an attempt to prolong our time away and escape the harshness of peak peak-period Christmas tickets. We nearly didn't make it to the airport.



Bags on the side of the road. Car smoking.


Fortunately (used somewhat advisedly) we noticed the smoke drifting from the car bonnet before we hit the traffic on the Sydney Harbour Bridge. If you have never visited Australia, I'm sure that you will; nonetheless, empathise with being in this predicament and creating chaos and discontent from the middle of such an iconic structure. Again fortunately, we had found ourselves a lovely housesitter who had kindly offered to drive us to the airport (a good hour-and-a-half drive from home). In an extraordinary display of good humour, our housesitter, having calmly alerted us to the smoke, offered to wait for roadside assist alone and waved us onwards in the back of a family sized taxi. 









Strangely, after a few casual pleasantries, the taxi driver smiled and told us that we had been lucky. What did he know that we didn't? How does breaking down on the way to the airport, where time is of the essence, constitute 'lucky'? When we nervously asked him to elaborate, he just smiled again, nodded his head slightly and said, "You'll see... in about 10 minutes." Yikes!

And ten minutes later as we sailed past cars rooted to the spot in our free-to-go-like-the-wind taxi and bus lane, we grinned back at him.






A lesson? What appears to be a curved ball can sometimes be a blessing in disguise. I must moralise with myself more often...



PS For two years now, I have seen reference to the All About France links and have at times tried to paste the image to my post in order to be able to join in. Clearly, I haven't managed or simply haven't tried hard enough. Trying again now.

Thursday, 10 November 2016

Escape to France



I am sharing with you today the latest press release for my book 'But you are in France, Madame' and in my next blog, I will be reflecting on a few personal milestones that I have passed since pressing the 'publish button' one year ago.

PS If you are interested in purchasing a copy of the book, there is a clickable link to the right of this blog page which will take you to the purchasing options. Thanks, as always, for your interest.

Wednesday, 21 September 2016

One holiday ... 8 or 9 ski stations ?


It is rather presumptuous of me to be posting about skiing. Summer has only just been declared 'over' for another year and, even though the first flocons de neige have made their appearance on mountain summits, causing lake-level murmurings of joy and shivers of anticipation, it will still be a while before the majority of us get to boot up, jacket on and take off. *

In a blog long, long ago I wrote about skiing: my experiences as an adult novice, my clothing challenges and the up-and-down relationship that I have with the overall experience. I am a summer girl who has lived most of her life through mild winters and exceptionally hot summers. The cold takes some management. In this same article, I also wrote about my first trip to the snow with my, then very young, children. My overall recollection is that it was harrowing. The temperature was partly to blame, but the chair-lifts were the stuff of nightmares, very sore arm muscles and a guilty conscience for days thereafter, as I relived the possibility of my small offspring slipping out of my embrace and plunging into the void below.

I was intrigued, therefore, to read this morning in an article about the best ski stations in France that children in classes run by the ESF (Ecole du Ski Français) now wear magnetised vests. I don't know how wide-spread this practice is, but the safety aim is clear. The claim that they self-release at the top puts my active imagination back into over-drive.

Aside this little vestimentary addition, the article attempted to categorise the stations and came up with an impressive list: Best for beginners, best for intermediate, best for advanced, most reliable snow, most charm and romance, best for partying, best for families, best for snowboarders, best value and best for weekends. Naturally, all up for debate.

From home in Talloires, we can be on the slopes of La Clusaz within forty minutes. We know it well and would agree with its inclusion in many of the categories. Because of its proximity to an international airport, it made it onto the 'Best for weekends' list (Australian readers, sorry! Article aimed at European travellers). If you add in Manigod, Le Grand Bornand and St Jean de Sixt, a single Aravis lift pass gives you access to a respectable 220 km of slopes. More than enough to keep most of us busy for a weekend.


What if you like to ski and you have the luxury of time? La Clusaz is still an excellent possibility, but might I suggest that staying somewhere off the mountain might be an inspired idea? For one, you have the luxury of choice. Why not wake up each morning and choose a ski station depending on the best weather report? We have eight or nine that we would happily go to just for the day. Secondly, if there are members of your party who like skiing but do not want to ski every day, holidaying off the mountain gives them the possibility of many more non-snow-related activities (art galleries, museums, shopping, cinemas, walking tours...). Thirdly, even staying on the slopes will not guarantee that you won't have a decent hike to the lifts each morning. It is true that off the mountain you will have to commit to a drive each day, but for most of the season, we could drive nearly all the way to the lift office, park, dress and purchase our ticket within a few easy steps of the car.  Finally, consider the cost. I know for myself that if I stayed on the slopes, I would buy a use-at-all-time pass, which would have the added pressure of making me feel that I needed to ski constantly to make the most of it. Add to that, the very high cost of winter rental, restaurants and services on the slopes and you have another good reason to stay further afield.


I know that this will not be a good solution for everyone, but we have had several sets of guests stay with us throughout the winter months, some of whom had previously been convinced that there was no other way to holiday in the snow than to stay up high at a single station, but whom, by the end, even after discounting the attraction of our free accommodation, were more than happy with the options that a non-ski-resort stay offered.


*The use of all of these prepositions was for all my English-as-a-second-language French friends who have told me how much they love these pesky little add-on prepositions! (see below ... and for the full article click here)
  • Tickets are available from the box office.
  • Not enough data is available to scientists.
  • No figures are available for the number of goods sold.
  • There are plenty of jobs available in the area.

Monday, 15 August 2016

Strawberries and Champagne



Here, in Australia, it is winter. Strawberries like these are not available. Correction, strawberries that taste like these, are not available.

On his recent trip, my husband had one of those it-makes-complete-sense-in-France experiences. He was shopping, not in a market, a supermarket. Quietly going about his own business, he stopped to admire the fruit. He made no eye contact with anyone else. He did not venture an out-loud comment or exclamation, he just stopped to look. The lady beside him, French of course, wanted to help. She had sensed a moment of indecision and wanted to be sure to support him through it. So, addressing my husband, she gave her approval to the quality, of course the price was irrelevant, and then stopped as she was about to continue on her way, registering that my husband had not responded. She interpreted this as a sure sign that he was not French and, changing to English, continued in her self-appointed mission to ensure that he had the best gastronomic strawberry experience possible.

She advised him on how to eat said strawberries.

No, not with a recipe, not by suggesting a large dob of Chantilly or a perfect dessert wine. Just, how to eat the strawberry.

My husband stopped at this point in his story telling and I looked at him quizzically, still not sure if this was some sort of flirtation, French style, or really was a tale of two strawberries. Not sure about you, but I've always used the green bit to hold onto and chomped into the pointy end first. No! No! No! The pointy bit, apparently, is the sweetest bit and so you need, indeed must, start with the flat bit first and work your way up, saving the best for last.

Still musing over the exact nature of eating à la francaise, he was invited out for dinner that night to eat with our most charming of neighbours at the recently re-furbished restaurant across the road from our house. She insisted that they both start with a champagne aperitif and browsed the wine list to make her selection. Decision made, she called across the sommelier ... who refused to take the order. It was, he explained, not masculine enough for my husband and suggested another champagne that would fit the bill.

By this stage, I was rolling around with laughter. Strawberry etiquette and not-masculine-enough champagne. Only in France. How I love her so.

View from the terrace of the Beau Site restaurant in Talloires on the Annecy Lake

Thursday, 21 July 2016

Talloires from the inside out

To link with #allaboutfrance, I invite you back to Talloires and our French village house .

A BIG thank-you for reading and sharing...


Earlier this week, I proudly showed off our village, Talloires, one of the jewels of the Annecy Lake.

Today, I take you to Le Cormoran, our beautiful 4-bedroom 18th Century village house, available for holiday rental and situated close to all the action - boulangerie, poste, tabac, cafés, restaurants, cinéma, supérette ... and a short walk to the lake. Take a look, or visit our holiday rental site click here then contact me on cb222@me.com if I can help you to plan your next skiing, cycling or just-being-in-the-French-Alps holiday.

 


 









 Le Cormoran/ Our French village House





Monday, 27 June 2016

Quick bites

I was asked recently, by someone heading for a short stint in France, if I could think of any obvious cultural pitfalls to try and avoid when she arrived. The need to greet all present before launching into the nitty-gritty of the reason for being somewhere, and the 'bise', (the delightful French custom of greeting by way of a kiss or kisses), came to mind immediately.








A little later, I was preparing myself a tisane, a herbal tea, made, in this case, exclusively from the plants in the gardens of the Talloires Abbey, when I remembered an awkward moment that I had experienced many years before.


Then, employed by the French government as an English-speaking assistante, my rather vague job description was to help out the English teachers with their classes in two French collèges. It was a nine-month position and, as I was young and carefree, it seemed like an excellent way to experience first-hand living à la française.

As luck would have it, I was posted to Grenoble, where the only person that I knew in France, lived. My friend suggested that she meet me at the train station and take me back to her parents' house for a couple of days until I found my feet. Hugely relieved at the idea, I accepted. Breakfast had finished for the family when I arrived, but the mother busied herself with preparing me a cup of tea ... only the cup was not like any cup that I had drunk tea from before. In my limited experience, soup would have been a more suitable liquid and I looked around for a spoon, thinking that it was strange that no-one in all my years studying French at school and at university had prepared me for drinking tea like the French. But, there was no spoon and I wriggled uncomfortably, hearing my own mother's voice concerning soup-drinking etiquette. "Don't slurp." "Tilt the bowl at an angle away from you and use your spoon to get the last drops." "No, Catherine, do not pick up the bowl with your hands." What was I to do? I procrastinated, waited until my host left the room, grabbed the bowl with both hands, downed the tea and slipped the bowl quickly back in place... precisely as I should have done, minus the haste and embarrassment.

And now, for a bit of cultural confusion in reverse.

Back in Australia, my daughter took a packet of Mini Bites (bite-sized brown rice crackers) to school to eat at recess. Hoeing into them, there was a loud guffaw from the boy to her right. Said monsieur then reached into his pocket for his iPhone. Still laughing, he took a photo to send back to his classmates in France. His language background took him on an altogether different mind journey ...  if further explanation needed click here