Spring has sprung.

 

 

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Ski school graduation.

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.

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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.

112A4584I 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

 

The French life.

 

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We are here. We have a bank account, a mobile phone, a fixed address and we know where to buy every organic food known to man on the Cote D’Azur. I have settled into yoga and running. As far as the cafes, I am working well from afar and the systems we have put in place are and ticking along nicely. Luc has settled into school extremely and made plenty of new friends.

This is working! We have made it! We have achieved our goal!

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Life has moved at an incredible pace. Our days are so full fitting everything in. Everything is new. Roads, directions, driving on the other side of the road. How to buy groceries. How to fuel your car. How to do the banking, buy insurance, send and receive post. Order in a restaurant, pay a bill, tip on a bill and ask for the bill. Opening hours of shops, supermarkets, banks and post offices. The list is endless. We are constantly learning this new French way of life. A lot of the time we get it, other times we accept it is the “French” way. The French even say this. They tell you to your face. ‘ This is the French way!’ So you just learn to accept it. It is something you take on in other aspects of your life as well. You begin to learn to let go…

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I mentioned recently to a friend that I was well and truly living in the moment here. I said that if anyone had to ‘learn’ how to do this, then the South of France was a great place to be. It is so aesthetically pleasing to the eye, that you can’t help but stop and look at it. It screams at you as you drive down the laneway, look at my beautiful stone wall, look at my beautiful poppies growing out of every crevice, look at how they glow as the sun shines through them. How can roses be so red? Did I not notice them before? Luc was telling his Grandma on the phone, whom I may add loves her garden, lives for it and has grown roses for as long as I can remember, that they have ‘real roses’ in France. Easy tiger, this is your rose loving grandma you are talking to here! ‘No Grandma, you have to visit me now, this week, these are the real roses, not the ones we have in Australia, they aren’t the proper ones. So you can see, it captures an eight year old boy, no less!

But then there are also the beautiful shutters on the windows, the gorgeous hues of colour they are painted, greens, blues, creams, some new, some old, some freshly painted, some peeling, they all arrest you. They demand you to look and say, ‘my, how beautiful are these things.’ The roofs, the tiles, the cedar trees , palm trees, pencil pines, peppercorn trees, tulips, irises, olive groves, lavender, the list goes on. It doesn’t matter if you are driving the highway, or a winding road, or down an alley. It doesn’t matter if you are in the city or a small town, the whole area says ‘look at me’. It says, stop your thoughts, don’t think of what to cook for dinner, don’t think have I paid the bills or wages? did I reply to that email? did Luc do his homework? It stops all those thousands of thoughts running through your head, and you are forced to ‘live in the moment’. Yes, this is where you send people that could never imagine ever being capable of doing this.

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But, it doesn’t just stop there, it also forces you to be grateful. Luc is used to me asking him after school or at the dinner table or before going to bed, what are we grateful for today. I admit, we used to repeat things like having dinner, cuddles etc. but I don’t think we fully felt it, we acknowledged it, but it wasn’t real enough. Here, we feel it. Here, we love going on and on about how grateful we are. There are so many things. I tell you what we are incredibly grateful for, the organic French butter with sea salt crystals in it!! Seriously, it is AMAZING! But we are having these OMG moments constantly and we love showing gratitude. We do it without thinking about it. We LOVE it. We both went to a parent/child mindfulness course on the weekend. It was run by one of the ladies in my yoga class. She was going to have the morning one in French and for the first time, one in English in the afternoon. I have to admit, Luc was nervous it was going to be ‘boring’. They actually took the kids out for most of it with another teacher, this worked so well. We were learning the same thing, but not being distracted. I asked him what did he love best other than his teacher as we both asked each other that first and realised we both loved how good they were. He said, Mummy, when we are stressed we are worrying about the past, when we are anxious we are worrying about the future, true happiness is when we are living in the present. Bingo, he got it. That was the simple but effective tool we took away. We learned to press the ‘pause’ button every time we felt ourselves wandering away from this. And the most important part, that the more we practice the better we will get at this. We got so much out of it, and I really question whether we would have if we had not come to France. We are in a special space that has allowed us to really stop and smell the roses. And boy are those roses incredible!!! You won’t get them in this blog, but the annual Rose exposition is in Grasse this weekend and the open house of the villa & gardens of the Ephrussi de Rothschild in Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferret, so we have an action packed weekend of all things rose coming up. Rose photos will follow after.

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I did not buy this! It was his first time to have fairy floss. yes, he loved it, I had heart palpatations…

In between all of this there were also important ‘growing pains’ so to speak. We missed our little family unit with Tony and me having a “little friend” as they call a boyfriend here. It is a pretty romantic place to hang out. I have this beautiful balcony off my room overlooking the mountains and the beach, it would naturally be awesome to share this with a ‘petit ami’, especially all the romantic restaurants along the beach. Luc actually commented when were out the other night having dinner in a restaurant, “mummy, it is so romantic isn’t it” , see, even an eight year old boys feel it too, there is a magic here. Anyway, this blog is not about that part of my life, but I feel it is important to acknowledge that we have had to ‘adjust’ to our new way of life.

So, the food stuff that lots of you have been waiting for! I will admit, you wouldn’t want to be a pig or a cow here, they eat a lot of saucisson and cheese! Every time we go past a billboard there is some festival on. It involves me leaning out the window and quickly taking a snap shot of the poster. It is filling our weekends, and that was before spring had truly sprung, we have got to let a lot go now, as there is too just too much to see and do.

The first one on the calendar is the Chocolate festival. To those who know me, this is my worst nightmare. But, we are in France and Luc loves chocolate, so we are going. It was so beautiful. Everyone was so happy, people dancing, eating, drinking, chatting and tasting Chocolate. They love their food, it is such a different way than we do. It is expected to have good food, to know about good food. It is their way of life. Festival number two is an Olive festival, now this is more my cup of tea. Luc adores olives, he eats jars of them, he hoovers them, inhales them, get the picture? We buy $80 dollars of olives!!! We already have olives at home…

112A3584Then we have the honey festival. Honey ice cream, honey lollies, honey marshmallows, honey itself. Lots of ‘bio’, that is ‘organic’ honey. Lots of bees., they show the process of how they make the honey from ‘bee to jar’. With the big pesticide companies literally biting the hand that feeds, which are our bees, I love this festival. Bees are essential to our survival. Buying honey here is so important. Luc gets to try honey from lavender plants and blossom trees. They take their honey seriously. They know how it is extracted and why it tastes different depending on where the hives are and what plants the bees are pollinating. Luc got a great lesson on this first hand last week. We have hives on our property, and the beekeeper came to look after them. We discovered three new hives they had made. It was so amazing to show him this, there was much excitement and ‘buzz’., pardon the pun, of finding the new hives they had made.

In between this we also had Easter, that in itself is a chocolate festival. We had the world’s largest Easter egg hunt in the history of our Easter egg hunts. Seriously, 20 acres to spread them all out. We also have our wonderful ‘new’ friends from Melbourne and their four kids and another local French family and their son. So twelve for a sit down lunch and eight kids for the hunt. Angelique set our alarms early to get up before the kids. It is a ‘crisp’ morning, and not one that you would wear your thongs to ‘hide’ the eggs. But worse than this is, Luc wakes up!!! This is like Christmas! Lucky, I had a cunning plan! I had told him the night before that Angelique had all of our eggs sent from Australia and that I would get them off her in the morning, that way he wouldn’t pull the house apart looking for them. I told him if he looked out of the window and the Easter bunny was out there, all the eggs would disappear. I had to close the shutters all over the house, so he wouldn’t be tempted to look out of the window and see us hiding the eggs. Then I had to ‘lock’ him into the house!! There are two little love heart cut outs on our shutters, which we never close mind you , so he really thought mummy was taking this seriously! I was worried he would peek out of the ones in this bedroom, so we had to sneak along the wall. We hid over 300 eggs, some tiny, some huge, some organic, some fair trade. Then of course, we have me. I have to photograph ‘everything’! Now, as you can imagine most of these are for the blog, but it makes everything we do take longer, plus my feet were almost numb at this point!!! He was worried what took me so long when I got back, but the excitement of the day was building beautifully. Next, he had to wait for everyone to get here. Are they here yet? Are they here yet? This is from Angelique! not Luc, she couldn’t wait for the kids to go for it!!!! It was hilarious!!! The other kids arrived and we had baskets lined up. The little ones were in rapture, the big kids competitive to get the most. And boy did I hid them, ha! I would not be surprised if there are still 20-30 still hidden in the plants as we speak! Then it was time for the big sit down lunch, a huge family roast, lots of roasted vegies and of course chocolate for dessert including an Italian bell shaped Panettone, followed by cheese. We started at 0900 and said goodbye at 2100. Twelve hours of solid celebration amongst a fire roaring, kids running around the property, movies, games of backgammon, it was a beautiful ‘family’ day with our new friends. We were so happy and truly grateful. We could get used to this…

 

We will both continue to both ‘live the dream, ‘live in the moment’ and ‘carpe diem’.

 

Lots of love Jeanette and Luc xox

Home sweet home.

We are finally on our last leg of our journey to our new ‘home’!

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This is the moment when you start to think whether you chose the right house. Will it be anything like its photos? What happens if you hate it and you have prepaid 6 months rent!

Blind faith is a wonderful thing. It makes you feel alive. It’s edgy, it keeps you brimming with the excitement for the unknown, it is also what we have to believe in. Trust our instincts, go with the flow, believe that everything will be okay.

We also have to find it…

So we land at Nice airport and it is pouring with rain. That’s not so bad, but they did promise over 200 days of sunshine on the Cote D’azur. The mountains are covered in snow and we are super excited by this. They look so beautiful. To look at snow capped mountains right beside the sea is fantastic.

First we get the hire car. Then we need to workout GPS, google maps and anything else I can think of so as to not get lost. Our luggage just fits in the car, and by just, I mean Luc is completely surrounded by suitcases. It’s a mid size car too, purposely chosen to take 6 suitcases of luggage. Good think we didn’t get the Fiat 500! This is like a Lego building, he is the little figurine delicately placed in and around the blocks. Well he sure as hell ain’t going anywhere!

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My little man, still standing after 48 hours of travel.

So we head off on our drive which is about 45 minutes. As it gets dark we slowly start to climb the mountain to where we will live. The roads are getting narrower, the sky darker, the air colder, the rain and wind harder. I start to feel nervous. When I say the roads are narrower, we are talking two way roads that are only one lane wide. I am worried about the hire car getting scratched, and wish I had hired something smaller or just got a taxi and hired a car the next day. What was I thinking? I start panicking as we ascend up our road. There are sharp hairpin turns. I continue to panic and think I will have to get another house! I can’t live like this, it was a mistake, why didn’t I ask what the road was like? Then the driveway up to the house is even steeper. And my worst nightmare, the carpark is at the bottom, I will need to carry everything up!! It is cold and wet and I worry that I have just wasted 6 months rent on a house I can’t live in.

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We just fit all the luggage in. It was incredibly ‘snug’.

Hold that thought.

 

Angelique and her mum greet me at the top of the drive. Yes, you can drop all your luggage at the top then take your car down. No, it is not usually this cold and windy, it is the worst weather we have had. Please, come in and have a glass of wine. I slowly relax and breathe a little. It is fair to say there will be a few panic attacks along the way on such a great journey. Blind faith, things will be okay, things will get better etc. You have to believe.

We awake the next morning to the most glorious view and sounds of birds chirping in the background. I may not have mentioned that Luc started school the very next morning, just 12 hours after landing. It is a 15 minute drive away on a good day. Due to the storm, the trees had come down and our road was closed off. So we divert another way. We were a full hour late the first day. The views driving there though were nothing short of spectacular, we were breathless. Luc is madly taking photos on my ‘good’ camera as I drive. I almost brake as every car goes past us. I am freaking out a little at how close they drive to us. I have to stop and reverse four times on the first day, just to let someone past. How do people live like this? How are there not more accidents? I need to find the world’s smallest car on the market or we are never going to survive!

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This is the sunrise from my bedroom on the first morning.

It takes about a week to start to relax on the roads, and not give Luc whiplash every time a car gets too close. Whenever there was a bus or a truck, I went into full time panic mode. Poor Luc may have heard a few non French curses in the car. I slowed the car right down to let them past. It was not just me, I watched others do it too. It is like you are all holding your tummy in as you squeeze past. So if one of you is stationary at the right angle, the other can just, and I mean just, shimmy past.

I only have the hire car for two weeks, so the hunt for a car is pressing. I start to realise how bad my French is, how will I get through this process?

Angelique is an angel, by name and by nature. She speaks fluent English, French, German and Spanish. To say that she saves my butt on numerous occasions is an understatement. She steps in for me. After attempting, and failing to communicate on the car I finally decide on, she speaks to the lady for me. For every little detail I must ask, she translates, she also comes out with me to act as my translator at the car yard too.

So I buy the car, I need a bank account and a phone too. All of this takes so much longer that it should to happen. If you have heard stories about how long it takes to get things done in France, they are all right! I am not going to bore you with it, but a couple of snippets.

I have transferred a lot of money from Australia to reduce my transfer fees. I am late to an appointment and need to get money out and I get refused on many occasions. How can this be? I panic my money has been stolen. I go home and transfer another chunk. First thing in the morning I go to see my bank manager to ask what the problem is. He said I took too much out. What do you mean? I have not spent all my money? Oh, no madame, you have not, that is true. But, you can only use a certain amount per week. Que? I explain that I have always had my own income and bank accounts and didn’t need to start now having someone determine how much I could spend. I say, in Australia we have similar for eftpos, but it normally starts at 500 AUD per day, plus a few thousand from a teller machine. He cannot believe this. No,not in France. Here they write cheques and go to the bank when they want large sums. He will give me a special single use card as a back up that gives me whatever cash I like and doesn’t affect my special weekly limits. He also increases my weekly limit to the maximum. They are either not used to or don’t want to change and take advantage of the automatic teller machines. The way banks have become automated in Australia, would take 20 years over here. He assures me my money is always available, I just need to come in when I want extra cash. This lets me down when we go skiing for a week. I buy new skis and get knocked back. I don’t panic this time, just be grateful I have my Australian card as backup. Fraud must be tough here, it is so hard to get your own money out!

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Spring has sprung!

There is also the problem of needing a bill in my name with my French address to get my bank account. So, I go to get my French phone account. They need a French bank account to set up my account. You are kidding! So I go back to the bank. I also need these documents for my car insurance too. I am in a loop, that doesn’t seem to have an answer. We agree to make special dispensation with my house contract and my visa. But, I must get all other paperwork to him the minute it comes through. This takes about a week to do. The days roll past. There is always something that holds things up. If you don’t have an Angelique in your life and you want move to France, you are in trouble! She helps me with everything.

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The garden is amazing!

Her mother Martine is wonderful as well, another angel!

They have both been so hugely supportive of Luc and I, we are both indebted to them forever. Nothing is too much, they treat us like family. Actually the whole property has an extended family feel to it.

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View to the west from my lounge room.

Now, our new home!!

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I never tire of the view. 

It is like heaven on earth. It is set on 20 acres, with an olive grove, palm trees, cypress trees and the most amazing garden you can imagine. Martine, has a green thumb and lives for her garden. My mum is the same, so I understand her love and addiction. She has the most amazing vegie garden I have seen. The best part, she wants me to help myself to what ever I like. And, its all organic! She has started to grow the seedlings from seed for summer. We have a wonderful array of herbs. They even have bees for honey! Plus the olive grove provides us with the most amazing olive oil I have had. It is fantastic. We have a great compost and Luc loves running out to pick me some herbs for dinner each night. I am really going to have to cook some amazing food for these beautiful people. Cooking is my best skill set to offer. Everyone loves to eat…

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View to the east towards Grasse.

We have fantastic views through to the Mediterranean sea and on a super clear day you can see Cyprus. There are stepped gardens and olive groves dotted all over the mountain. We are exactly half way between the city of Grasse and the small town of Cabris. It is the most perfect location. I definitely made the right choice. Everyday I come home I am so grateful we came here. I go to Cannes for my yoga and running on the beach. There I can get my city fix and then retreat to the hills.

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This is my view running each day.

Angelique has three wonderful children, but her eldest Ivaan was a major reason for me to take this place. As his siblings are only 5 months and 2 years old, he and Luc play together every day. He is now like my second son. He loves to hang out here, and we love having him stay and eat dinner. Plus, he loves my cooking! This kid is welcome any day of the week! He told me my vegie soup was the best he has even eaten, it made my day. I love it when kids ‘get’ and love good food.

Luc’s first day at school went well. When I first dropped him off, the little munchkin was shaking. I felt terrible to leave him there. Then he went to cry and didn’t want me to go. One of the boys in his class came out and said he will look after him. I rang an hour later and they said he was doing great. The other boy had proudly told the teacher he would look after him the whole day and make sure he was well settled. I was instantly relieved. The thing about a bilingual school, is all the kids are in the same boat. Some know both languages, but most only one, and there are those that don’t speak French or English. So the kids are all on a level playing field. Everyone is different. I am really happy with the school. His teachers are great, and the communication is fantastic. Lots of emails and they constantly take and send photos of the kids activities to the parents, so you know what they are doing.

The French school system does have a few differences though. First, there is a lot of homework. Luc’s school also has Wednesdays off. Most French schools have the same day off or a half day, which is becoming more popular. His school therefore goes through to 5pm every day. Then they have study class from 5-6pm. By the time we get home it is 6.30pm. It is late for him, so I need to be super organised and have dinner on the table the minute we walk in. Then, we need to get his homework done too. The upside is, I am far more involved with where he is at academically than I was in Australia. I am also more involved, due to the homework. I enjoy this aspect very much. I love seeing what he has done that day. There are no computers or ipads at the school either. The French system is very strict and hasn’t evolved like ours, but I am not as concerned as I first was about it. There are pros and cons. I don’t like the homework after a long day as I don’t see how it can be productive. But I do love how they bring all their books home every day and have to write by hand. He has pleaded with me to type up his projects, but I think the art of handwriting will be lost very soon, so this is not a bad thing for him to experience. It is only for one year. They go on a lot of excursions. It’s kind of cool when you are studying different cultures and architecture and they have real examples to visit nearby. The kids just can’t do that back home. Same goes for art too. There are so many museums around here.

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Day one at school, insisted on wearing his footy jumper from home.

Now, the most important part of his day is lunch time!! They have the menu posted every week and he trying new things all the time. Some days it is a hit, others it is apparently disgusting. His words! He has liked things I didn’t think he would, a bean cassoulet and vice versa, the fish meuniere he hated. Obviously having dessert or cheese to finish is a huge bonus. I am relieved dessert is quite often fresh fruit, and just one type. Everything is seasonal which I love. It is the first question I ask at pickup each day. What did you have for lunch? Quickly followed by, did you like it? He reviews it like we are watching Masterchef which I find so entertaining. No wonder the French are good at food! They all sit down together with the teachers which I think is fantastic. They have to watch their manners and not talk too loudly. I am just happy that someone gets to share the parenting of meal times with me. It’s not just me telling him the same things.

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Menu the first week.

So, things are trés bon, as we say in France.

 

I will get to all the beautiful produce from now on in with the blogs.

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Local clementines.

Thanks for following a foodie and her son, we love sharing our stories with you!

 

From Paris, with love.

 

 

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We walked through the airport security doors, wiped our tears and headed through to the lounge. Mixed emotions of sadness and excitement brewed within us both.

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Sleeping like a baby…

 

It’s amazing what an airport lounge can do for Luc. It’s almost as exciting as the flight. Again, due to my somewhat strict allowances on any indulgences, it is always a compromise. As it was late and we were both a little emotional he also knew he had this one in the bag. The fact he can ‘help himself’ which in his mind means it’s ‘free’ makes it even more exciting.

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Cool cucumber!

Now, I won’t go over too much of the flight, except QATAR were a fantastic airline, and we were looked after the whole way. Yes, I had to carefully reprimand the staff when they gave him his fourth gateau from Laduree, and the bar had a small buffet which included a selection of Valrhona chocolates, that had to be policed too, but the food and service was perfect. Luc’s favourite breakfast was the middle eastern one. He loves olives and the fact they were on a breakfast menu with fetta, tomato and cucumber, he thought that was just magic! Beats pancakes any day! We had a great time travelling through Doha, and look forward to stopping for longer on our way back. The airport lounge there was even more exciting as they had a kids electronics room with all the gadgets, and he had it all to himself!! I loved the middle eastern breakfasts they served there too, my kind of food. We didn’t have long and headed back on the plane. One leg down, one to go!

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Monkey has been with us since Luc was born and excited to move to France too!

Hour by hour we were getting closer to France, and the butterflies starting to settle in again. It was now well and truly beyond a dream, we were almost there. And not just to our new home in Grasse. Whether you are eight or eighty, there is a lot to be excited about Paris.

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Such a cool soccer table!!

The airport itself is wonderful, I have always loved it, from my first time I visited this beautiful city. To share these moments with your child are priceless. He was in awe just as much as I was the first time I arrived.

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Mocktails!

Driving into the city and getting closer to our hotel, the pressure was mounting. We couldn’t wait to hit the streets as we only 20 hours in Paris before taking our next flight to Nice. We were incredibly tired, but kept the excitement brewing.

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The city of love.

To finally be able to see the Eiffel tower was a huge dream come true for Luc. He has built one out of Lego, and was busting to see it. We hopped onto one of the tourist buses as I thought it was a good way to show him the sights with only just a few hours. You must remember we had been travelling for 30 hours, so we were running completely on adrenalin.

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I am still awake, but only just…

As we left the hotel and headed onto the streets his little head was about to explode before we even boarded. People were everywhere, and even I couldn’t remember seeing that many Patisseries and Chocolatiers when I was there last. He had found his mother ship, how was I ever going to get him back to Australia!!! I have never seen anyone so excited, and I am a pretty excitable person! Everywhere shop we past or entered a staff member gave him something. Chocolates, cakes, biscuits, they all thought he was adorable. I was giving in as I needed to buy time to get through the tour before he crashed. Unfortunately it didn’t work. Do you know where he completely crashed? Where he fought and fought to keep his eyes open? It was like watching a tin wind up toy run out of steam. Right in front of the Eiffel Tower! I was devastated! I was trying to be gentle in waking him up, tourists surround us and am obviously judging this mother who should clearly have her little boy tucked up in bed. Luc fell asleep, snoring loudly against some young guys from Denmark. I apologised and they thought it was very cute. They asked why he was so tired? I replied we had just flown directly from Australia. What??? They couldn’t believe we were still standing. I tried to explain how excited we were to come and see the Eiffel Tower. Oh well, we had two hours in the morning if we slept all night and set the alarm for 0530, we would see it then. Now to get off this bus and get back to the Hotel for some much needed sleep.

 

 

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I wish my Mum would buy one instead of just looking!

I didn’t mention the weather, it was freezing!!! Only 5 degrees that day, with a breeze. After leaving the heat of summer in Australia, we had to get up to speed very quickly.

 

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The Louvre Mummy!!!

Anyway, time to head back to the hotel. I tried to carry him, but the cool air quickly woke him up getting off the bus, that and the fact we stopped outside a huge Lindt store!! One more chocolate wasn’t going to hurt, and yes, they gave them all to him for free, because he is so cute. He woke up a little but not enough to grab a bite to eat for dinner. It was so beautiful watching everyone having their apertifs, and getting ready to go out for the night. Every café and restaurant table was taken, the weather didn’t stop anyone. It was thankfully sunny, just so terribly cold. As they say, there is no such thing as bad weather, just the wrong clothes! To make our way back to the hotel without getting hypothermia, we did what every foodie does as they walk the streets of Paris, I showed him the food halls at Galleries Lafayette, which was just behind our hotel. It was filled with rows of Chocolatiers, macaron specialists and all the beautiful gourmet delights. His eyes were bulging once again. He just kept repeating how much he couldn’t believe how fantastic Paris was. How could you not be impressed? It was like he was given a part in the Willy Wonka movie. He was just so besotted and taken in, by the food of France. Our stores pale in comparison. This is what we had come for, and I had not failed to disappoint! Wait till he saw where I was taking him the next morning.

 

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View from our balcony at dawn

When we got to our room, we could both hardly talk. We literally fell into bed, and had a very deep, long sleep. It was only 7pm in Paris and we were completely gone for the night.

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‘People shop and eat like this Mummy?’

The next morning I awoke around 4am. Our Hotel was gorgeous in a wonderful location, so we showered and put as many clothes on as possible. This would be when I discovered that somehow I only had two pairs of jeans and no jumpers whatsoever! What had I done? I had managed to fill a whole suitcase with Lululemon though? Hmmm. One word, layers!!! Luc after being completely shell shocked at how cold it was the day before, did the same. He wore all his thermals we bought for the snow and layered up to. We set off around 7am, and literally had the whole of Paris to ourselves, funny that, on a 2 degrees Sunday morning!

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Mmmmm…

We caught the Metro straight to the Eiffel Tower. We walked out of the Metro and walked around the corner…wait for it, wait for it… WOW! Oh my god Mummy!!!! It’s the Eiffel tower!!! He could not stop with the accolades of how amazing it was. We looked at it from every angle, and yes, it really is amazing. At that moment, the same as the first moment he laid eyes on all the food stores, I felt that my investment in this year away had been returned doubly. He was completed and utterly in awe. It was a huge moment of relief and pride rolled into one. It is a huge undertaking to take your eight year old to the other side of the world, and it was exceeding all my expectations of how much he would enjoy it, I couldn’t have been happier with my decision. WE were really living life to the full. We were doing it, not just talking about it, we were also frozen!! Our hands were completely red raw as I was trying to take photos and I had bought him a hot crepe to keep his hands warm and tie him over till breakfast.

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First Metro trip.

 

I had a life long plan to eat at The Rose Bakery. It’s in a gorgeous part of Paris which is a foodies delight. It is all organic and they make beautiful fresh salads and tarts. Kind of like a small Ottolenghi for those that haven’t heard of it. Their commitment to organic produce is what I loved about it and had owned their cookbook for 12 years, and not ever been there. We went there after a few minor transport hiccups, and not before we turned blue! Wrong directions, iphone freezing up due to the cold, not being able to remember the address with said iphone out of action, taxi driver not understanding us etc. and time ticking away! Our car was picking us up at 1030 for our flight to Nice, we had to get a move on! We arrived half an hour before they officially opened and grabbed everything we could. Beautiful salads, hot scones, hot chocolate for Luc, fresh juices and a great coffee with house made almond milk. Crates of beautiful organic produce lined the floors as you walked in. Broccoli tarts and pizzas out of the oven on the tables. Space is at a premium here and I understood what that was like, I too, own two cafes with no spare space. It was comforting to know I wasn’t alone! If we didn’t have 6 suitcases I would have bought so much food, it was probably a good thing I couldn’t. Every store on the road heading back to the hotel was literally spilling with amazing produce. Butchers, bakers, cheese shops, fruit and veg, one shop just sold choux puffs, another macaron. Shop after shop, and we were running late!!! The kids was a mini me, finding it impossible to draw his eyes away from every window we passed. We really were in heaven. This was foodies heaven. We had arrived…

 

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We finally made it! Woohoo!

A passing thought.

2015 was a big year. Although I was living amicably with my soon to be ex husband in the traditional family home, the time had come to move on so we could both explore greener pastures.

With a much loved son who was a huge part of us continuing to live together, we finally put the family home on the market and started to think of our future. I had to consider my future as a single mother, which I admit was incredibly daunting, yet totally within my capabilities. What would we do? Where would we live? How would we manage? These questions continuously went through my mind. Random ideas would insert themselves occasionally. We could go down the traditional path and buy another home, stay at the same school, continue our day to day lives or we could take the opportunity for change. Get off the treadmill. Move away from the daily grind. Carpe Diem!

Living overseas was one of the passing thoughts that would resurface. I am a daily yoga devotee, and every morning after school drop off I would make a beeline for my spot on the mat. I would relish the space to allow myself to indulge my dream a little further. Maybe I should delve a little further into the possibility of making this dream a possibility? No, too hard, too difficult, too much money, what about Luc’s schooling? I need to get a house, I need to grow up, I need to be responsible, I own two cafes!!!! Oh dear, so much for relaxing. Breathe in, breathe out, breathe in, breathe out.

By the end of a few weeks of contemplation I decided it couldn’t hurt to find out whether it really was an impossible dream, was I really crazy? Or just maybe, it was a reality?

So with this notion formally evolving, where would we go? France? Yes! Bali? Yes!! It had to be a non english speaking country. There had to be a good school for Luc, there had to be good food or yoga for me. France speaks for itself, if you are a hard core foodie like myself, and anyone who has dined with me or at my house knows exactly what I am talking about, France is an easy choice. Bali has the lure of perfecting my yoga poses, living simply and sending Luc to The Green School, which has been a life long ambition and one that hopefully we can still achieve one day. Oh, and it had to be warm, hence the South of France.

So, what happens next? First you find out whether the country will allow you in. France has a long stay visa, which is basically a cultural visa. It allows people like myself to indulge their senses in the glorious food and culture of their wonderful country. Your children can go to school as a local and  get fed a three course meal for lunch. Hmmm, so I can follow this dream! My mind shifts a gear as it anticipates the possibility of making it happen. But what about work? What about Tony, Luc’s Dad? What about Luc? What about the fact neither of us can speak a word of French? One step forward, two steps backwards. The seeds of doubt sink in again.

Back on the yoga mat, I mull these obstacles in my head, and finally gain the courage to speak my crazy thoughts to those who are affected. The conversation goes a little like this. Me: Hey Kooky, (our affectionate name for our son) how do you feel about going to France?  Luc: Oh yes mummy!!! I would love to!!! Me: How about for a whole year? Luc: A year? What about Daddy? What about school? What about Gussy? (our dog). Me: Well Daddy will come and visit, you would go to school over there and guess what? Luc: What mummy? Me: They feed you a three course lunch at school every day!!! Luc: Really? Yes mummy I want to live in France!!! Chip off the old block, we live for food. This kid can eat the stinkiest of washed rind cheeses and have stilton in his sandwiches for school. So my biggest worry was always whether it was right for him, whether he was comfortable following his crazy mummy’s dream, and I clearly had nothing to worry about. We then looked at what the school lunches were that they served. To give you an idea about myself, we eat really healthy food, yes I am the food nazi. It has to be organic, there can’t be sugar, it has to be seasonal, fresh and prepared simply. I nag him day in day out about companies that destroy forests, how sugar is bad for him, Coke is the work of the devil etc. I think you get my drift. So the following conversation was part of showing that I could be a fun Mum too.

Me: Wow, on a Friday they have Eclair au chocolat for dessert!! Chocolate eclairs Luc!! Luc: Mummy, what is a Chocolate Eclair? Me: Oh dear, I have sheltered you sweetie. They sell them at Laurent Patisserie, we will go after school.

So off we go, I figure this will seal the deal. We arrive and I proudly order one, only to find out they are sold out! What?! You can’t have sold out. I explained that my son had to have one today as we were considering living in France. So, not to be deterred, we drove to their Albert Park store. I hesitantly walk in the store and scan the display counter furiously, please, please, please… BINGO! With that eclair, I will take my son to France!

Luc: WOW mummy! Is that a chocolate eclair? And I can eat it? Me: Yes my darling, you enjoy every bite.

The look on his face said it all. He was in heaven, how could you NOT go to a country that serves chocolate eclairs as part of its three course menu. The hard part was over. He is my life, Luc had to be 100% confident in this adventure or it was never going to happen. OK, now for his Dad and my staff. How do I present it to them? They are not an 8 yr old child, and they are not living in France? But they can visit!

I sit down with Tony and have a broad conversation of what my opportunities are. He is a wonderful Dad and very easygoing with things like this. I am about to turn 45 in a few weeks and we celebrated his 60th last year with a fabulous family trip to Uluru. Not many ex wives take their husband’s away to celebrate a milestone! With age comes wisdom and a far more open attitude to living your life to it’s potential. He was very happy with the idea. He could see the wonderful opportunities it would provide Luc, learning a new language and understanding the world is bigger than Australia. Plus he gets to come and hang out a few times with us and travel around.

So, to the staff. My shops are like my babies, and I have to say, even though I might not see all of my staff, I think of them as my children too. The store in Degraves St. is my first born. I worked it from the ground up. I painted it and had my friend’s Dad help make the furniture. It was very organic both in it’s inception and it’s growth. For the first ten years I worked it nearly every day, I couldn’t leave the place. Then I had Luc, my second baby, and I stepped back for the first time. When Luc started school, I felt I needed a new challenge. The city store could stand on it’s own, and it was time for a new business challenge. So along came Orrong park. It was chosen as I could work there and still have Luc around. He could play tennis in school holidays, and his friends could play in the park and hang out with him. So now I have two cafes! Pete runs Orrong Park, and Anna runs Degraves st. I cannot be the mum I am without them. I depend on them, the same way Luc depends on me, and they do a great job making it happen. So, I organise a meeting at my house, and drop the bombshell. Were they surprised? Yes, definitely. Were they shocked? No, we workshopped it like any other problem, my sweetener was I would give them a ticket each to come and stay. I was slowly running out of reasons to not follow my dream. A seed of excitement was now planted.

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