I admit and apologise in one that I am very behind in my blogs. What was going to be a weekly journal entry has become a monthly entry instead.
We find we are so busy doing things that I don’t have time to write about them!
We had our first school holidays. This included a great week spent at a hippy, holiday camp for Luc, complete with self-composting toilets and a veggie garden. Then a fantastic week skiing the Tignes-Val D’Isere mountains. Luc and I had two objectives for our year away. The first as to learn French, the second was to master skiing. This was our moment to work on the skiing.
Spring skiing is the quite simply the best. There is a great base of snow, warm sunny days and still plenty of fresh powder. Of course there are also a lot more resorts here, and most people are ‘skied’ out by spring so there are great deals and fewer punters to contend with. I also signed for French lessons, – everyday! I love it! I am constantly meeting the most wonderful people from around the world, and slowly grasping the difficult language that is French. I complained half-jokingly the other day to my wonderful teacher Christine. “You know, I wanted to learn difficulty this beautiful language possessed, I may never think of it the same way again!” Christine French because it is such a beautiful sounding language, I never envisaged the not only is a great teacher, she is also the most stylish dresser I have met. In nine weeks of classes, she has only worn the same outfit twice, her clothes, earrings, shoes, glasses and jewellery are always perfectly matched.
The other great part of spring is the flowers, and in particular roses. The rose festival was a huge hit. We are in Grasse, so this is not a time of the year to miss. Grasse is the perfume capital of the world. The original perfumeries are still here and very much alive. But sadly most of the land and businesses closed down when synthetic fragrances became available. The few small ones that are left supply the likes of Chanel and Dior, so hopefully they will continue to support the industry and their craft. It’s like anything, if consumers only support perfumeries that only use the real flower essences the industry will survive. As with food we vote with our dollar. It is worth researching the companies that use synthetic fragrances in their perfumes, you would be surprised how many high end, expensive companies do. The variety of roses has blown us away, as mentioned in the previous post. But it is the perfume that has seduced us. Some are so delicate and some hit you right between the eyes. We were very fortunate one morning when our lovely gardener rushed to stop us as we were leaving for school. He grabbed two perfect pale pink roses for Luc and I. The scent was the most amazing sensory experience. Luc was equally enamoured by this. He said his neighbour grows all the roses that go into making J’Adore by Dior, and he asked if he could pick them to bring to us. This is another example of how well we are being welcomed here. These little daily incidents mean the world to us. He has also invited us both to come and watch them being harvested. We are indeed lucky!
The French are able to take in the seasons and celebrate them well. We are so rushed and wrapped up in our little world back in Australia. The flipside of course is things take a long time to get done here. Everything stops for two hours every day. Day by day, we are getting used to this and accept how they operate. The long lunch is such a great idea. It has taken me three months to enjoy it. I was still in that Australian mindset of grabbing lunch on the go. I would order, eat and get the bill. They always serve little canapés before ordering, and expect you to have a coffee and linger. I would be thinking instead of what I still had to get done that day. It was a huge conscious mental shift to realise that when I accept a lunch invitation that it is for a ‘long’ lunch, not a half hour snack. It may be better described as ‘mindful eating’. We are almost all guilty of not consciously achieving this. Whether it is a sandwich or a degustation menu, it means to stop and be in the moment. Slow down, chew each bite and not have your mind racing through what else needs achieved throughout the day. Instead, we need to be aware of what we are putting in our body and creating that mindset to focus and enjoy it.
I have learned to stay and linger over a coffee at the end. As I am always by the sea, these restaurants are also in the most beautiful and tranquil settings. I used to run past them everyday and think how indulgent it was to eat like this. But for the French, lunch is like our dinner. It is the main meal of the day, and a time to relax and savour the moment. To be honest, I do struggle to completely ‘switch’ off, but I have learned to put aside the time at least, and breathe. I will get there in the end though!
Spring has also brought with it the most amazing weather. We chose the South of France as it claims to have over 300 days of sunshine. We have not been disappointed. Days are now spent at the beach and heading to the pool before dinner. The daylight saving means it is not dark until 9.30pm so we can swim from 6.30 till 7pm and have the warm sun on our skin, it also means the sun is less dangerous. June is also the last month before the dreaded summer tourist season. We have both heard and I have read of how horrific it can be. We had a small glimpse of it the other week when the Cannes film festival was on. The streets were packed and parking was at a premium. Lots of tourists and celeb spotting wherever you went. For the red carpet and first screenings of the movies entered, the punters must be in black tie. There are also huge penalties if you RSVP to an invitation and don’t turn up. You will lose your spot next year. So, this creates opportunities for those who don’t have tickets. It is possible to see people dressed up looking for tickets, if you don’t look the part you aren’t going to get the privilege of taking someone else’s ticket. The other tricky part is that you must then go in with someone who has a ‘badge’, without the badge you are ‘nothing’ in this town at Festival time. Luc and I went in a few times and enjoyed the atmosphere; we loved watching everyone so beautifully dressed up. The most amazing marquees are setup on the beach, and the usual restaurants go the extra mile and have beautiful floral arrangements and table settings to entice you. We were able to get bookings at some of these places, but sadly for the wrong reasons. After the attacks in Paris, a lot of tourists didn’t come. We were told that normally there would be lines down the street. The restaurants suffered. Although they seemed very busy, it was nowhere near the level they were used to. You have to understand they put a lot of time, money and planning into this event. The ironic part was it was the American tourists that didn’t come. Considering their lax gun laws, you would think you would feel safer out of America, maybe it was because they can’t bring them with them? Who knows? The response to the attacks that affect us personally, is security at the school. Major events like the vintage Monaco Grand Prix, were easy to get to and into. You could take your own alcoholic beverages even. But at all schools parents cannot attend events. So end of year productions, science shows and presentations are banned to parents. You would think these events carry the least risk, especially as we can all carry ID to show who we are. The sad part is, the kids miss out. They miss out on performing and they miss out on showing the ones they love most their work. On a greater scale, the sense of community that these school events brings, is lost. Luc worked so hard on two major projects, and could only relay to me at home how they ended up. There have been a lot of riots in Paris and we are aware of what is happening, although we appear to be relatively sheltered in the South. We are in our little ‘bubble’.
So politics aside, we made it to the Vintage Grand Prix. I love old cars, and it is only held every two years. This was our year and we made the trip to Monaco. It is on the exact same track, two weeks before the ‘real event’. These cars are worth 6-10 million euros. The drivers are all former Formula one champions. It was such a great day. Unlike when I have been in Melbourne, people were there to enjoy the cars and races, and not to yell, scream and get drunk. They dressed well, and were keen to see what they could. It was all very civilised! We stopped for lunch and sat at a restaurant, no hot dogs in sight! The cars were beautiful and we had an amazing day. I had no expectations, but have to admit I enjoyed it thoroughly and would recommend it to anyone who likes vintage cars.
We also got to enjoy the Sailing Festival in Antibes, in French, ‘LesVoiles D’Antibes. This is where the beautiful old wooden yachts of yesteryear sail in a five day regatta. As a sailor I was not going to miss this event. This is serious boat porn!! Beautiful old Sloops, Schooners, Ketchs, Cutters and Yawls with original brass fittings, glorious sails and classic timber decks. My old skipper back in Melbourne used to call the old timber boats, ‘floating firewood’! One of the Scottish yachts arrived back with the crew in traditional uniforms and the bagpipes playing. It was such a sight for all the senses. They are such yachts of style, substance and beauty. The modern fibreglass ones pale in comparison. The other added bonus was Italy had a food festival on as part of the festivities. So we got to eat, drink and taste our way around Italy too! Luc has discovered truffles and guess what? He loves them! We have bought some to keep when his daddy arrives in three days time. We ate cheeses from Calabria, jumbo olives the size of small eggs, cannoli with fresh marscapone, gelati, a glass of Barolo wine for mama! A delicious way to spend the day!
Tony arrives this week as well as Anna, my manager for Degraves St. Luc and I are super, super excited! We cannot wait to share our love and excitement of our new home with those we love. There will not be a dry eye at Nice airport that is for sure.. It has been 3 and a half months since we left and we miss Tony every day. We are so grateful to him for letting us have our adventure. We are also grateful to Viber, whatsapp and messenger for allowing us to video call most days. We show Tony the food at the festivals and our local organic supermarket. Luc holds the camera phone to the staff and proudly tells them it is his Dad “en Australie”. They always get a buzz out of it! Anna will be bringing us a few organic goodies from the Degraves store, and it will be great to share all things organic with her here in France. Our garden is so beautiful at the moment. We had friends for lunch the other day, and whilst the kids swam the mother and I went and picked lettuce, carrots, parsley, mint, plums and berries for lunch. Then Luc came in saying the beautiful Martine had given him 6 fresh eggs from our chickens for us.
I had hoped and dreamed for this exact moment. Never in my wildest dreams did I ever think it would be this good. We have to pinch ourselves daily. Luc almost daily as we drive to school comments on the beauty that surrounds us. We have this saying as we are driving the winding roads, “you don’t get a view like this driving to school in Melbourne”, and also the classic Aussie line from the movie The Castle, “Ahhh, the serenity”!
Lots of love from me and Luc xoxox