Tuesday, 25 June 2013


When we told friends that we were coming back to France for an extended stay, usually their first question was 'What are you going to do with your beagles?' The answer started out simply that my mum was going to have them to stay with her. Three weeks before we left she rescinded the invitation. Panic stations. What to do. There was no question that at 18 and almost 16 they couldn't go back to the kennels where they had holidayed for the 8 months when we were last in France.....a stay which had been fraught with myriad 'prepare yourselves emotionally' phone calls, massive vet bills and a cost that almost equated to private school fees. We thought about not going, after all these were the beagles that our life as a couple were so intimately entwined with. We had beagles before we had babies. And we took the beagles to the hospital to meet each respective baby (except for the one born in France) and each time they rolled their eyes and with stoicism moved one step lower down the pack hierarchy. My husband made me a special bespoke lead perfect for pushing the pram and walking the beagles around the neighbourhood. Together, we became part of the local scenery....Wayne at the post office would ask after my beagles by name yet had no idea what my children were called.

Yes, they were old, yet the vet assured us that there was no evident reason that they wouldn't live through the three and a half months that we were going to be away. So, at the eleventh hour, we put an ad in the Saturday paper and received over fifty responses from people who would consider looking after them. The first couple that we met, immediately started kissing them and fondling their ears....alarm bells were ringing....and then they told us how much they would charge. The second couple never returned our call as we had made the fatal mistake of taking all of our children as well as the beagles on that visit. Then one rainy Saturday, my husband drove out to a farm, that had only just escaped the recent bush fires and met an incredibly kind hearted couple who really wanted to look after them.  So we left them there and they were happy, with each other, sniffing and exploring.

Last week, we had the five year old's class rabbit home to spend the weekend with us. I'd joked with the teacher that this would never happen in Hobart as we have 'deux chiens de chasse' or in english, 'two hunting dogs'....who wouldn't have been able to help themselves. On queue the emails and phone calls started. Followed by the hard decisions. As I write this, one of our beagles won't be coming home again and depending on the lab results, the other one may not be either.

Our time in Uzes is almost over. Soon we will be packing up and heading back to Hobart. It has been a very strange feeling, being momentarily suspended between two worlds. My husband and I love it here, however, let's not kid ourselves, we're outsiders, interlopers. We have been living a self indulgent dream. While my French may be competent enough to see me give birth in French, through the rigamarole of buying new shoes for my children (and this is no mean feat even in English) and able to understand the middle aged letch in the cheese van at the market who told me that I should eat that particular cheese, drink red wine and then go to bed with my boyfriend.....I am a long way away from being able to communicate and not sound like an illiterate vegetable. My children love nutella crepes and no school on Wednesdays, yet, deep down, I think they'd rather be back in their comfort zone in Hobart......


Tuesday, 18 June 2013


Can you believe that on Saturday we were almost half way to Nimes before we realised that the train we were catching was actually.....from Avignon. Sometimes I can't believe how downright dim we are....I'm ashamed to admit that I'd even been reading the ticket to check the time and it still hadn't registered that my husband was driving the car towards the wrong city. Thank God for the eleven year old who luckily realised our folly. Once we turned around the GPS said that we would have seven minutes to spare once we made it to Avignon....and we still couldn't work out where exactly the TGV station was. Desperate times meant that I felt justified in changing the GPS language from French to English.....and discovered that the station we were looking for was on the other side of a field. Three minutes. I kid you not that we almost jumped out of that station wagon before it had come to a standstill, ran up the escalator onto the first platform we came across and threw ourselves onto the train which was just arriving. It was our train and we made it. I still don't know how. Why are all of our French train experiences like mini self induced massive coronaries?

My eleven year old daughter and I were in Lyon to take my new pink handbag back to the it has gone to the Dior workshop to be mended and hopefully we will be reunited before I leave the country. Meanwhile, across the road was a shop notorious for it's beautiful scarves. I know that I'd had my heart set on a particular pink one, however when the chap checked on the computer, the only one available was in Bordeaux....which is rather a long way away. Nevermind, we were seduced by the beautiful black 'Le Songe de la Licorne' with fluoro details:

I bought my first Hermes scarf in Sydney after I received my first pay check from my first ever proper job......way back in the mists of time. I have added to my collection at a rate of one every ten years.....unlike my friend the eternally glamorous and hysterically funny Faux Fuchsia.....who's strike rate is much about one every ten minutes! She also has a seriously impressive repertoire of knot tying. Even though I have a book, I usually stick to this, my favourite knot, which I taught her how to wear in London:

Now, if you would like to try this at home....all you do is lay your scarf, pattern side down, and keep folding it in on itself...about four times....until you end up with a long roll:

Tie a loose knot in the centre:

Position the knot, depending on whim, either in the centre or off to one side:

Pass the ends around behind your neck and then manoeuvre each end through the knot, one side at a time:

Pull down firmly on the red voila:

Lucky for me, they threw in a box of Knotting Cards, so, with some practice, maybe I can move into uncharted territory, beyond my old favourite.....I'm thinking about attempting the halter neck boob tube.

Meanwhile, on our return from Lyon we rushed over to the Pont du Gard for the spectacle 'Les Feeries du Pont'. 

This is how this ancient Roman aqueduct looks on any given day:

From our picnic spot on the grass it looked like this:

That was before darkness descended and Ulysses embarked on his magical journey through time and into the future in 'Ulysse au Pays des Merveilles' or 'Ulysses in Wonderland'. Then it looked like this....wonderland. Covered in this instance in groovy, hippy, flower power blooms:

I don't think I have ever seen anything so cleverly executed and spellbindingly beautiful....the whole family were entranced.....even the two year old. If you ever find yourself down this way when one of these performances are on then make sure that you buy tickets. You'll regret it if you don't. Consider yourself warned.

Due to crowds, traffic and a long walk we didn't manage to reach home, which by the way is usually only ten minutes down the road, until well after midnight so I suppose that we were up most of the night....well, by our standards anyway. Which leads me into a segue for the Daft Punk song that every radio station around these parts are playing ad nauseum and that I just can't get seem to get out of my head:

On the upside, it's a great song to jog to.


Friday, 14 June 2013


OK, so I was totally convinced that pink is my favourite colour....and then, when I was sorting through photos of our trip looking for pink, I discovered that I have obviously been nursing just a tad of a fetish for the colour blue, as well. This new fixation may have, just possibly, started in Paris in the window of Laduree, which was a show stopping melange of pretty pastel bleu:

If that is a sight to delight your heart then what about this - l'heure bleu when you are sitting in the Louvre forecourt at the Cafe Marly.....quaffing champagne while all four children are at home in the apartment being looked after by a very capable babysitter:

While my two year old may be happy to be tizzed up in pink, the boys, being boys, automatically gravitate towards blue:

Although, if you ask the five year old he will no doubt tell you that his favourite colours are in fact, gold, silver and yellow.

Look at one of my favourite dresses, which I wore earlier in the week for a jaunt to Aix en Provence:

There are accents of blue everywhere you turn in France:

Not to mention in Uzes:

This is the Ducal Palace:

The Duke of Uzes and his family live here. He is very important, so much so, that his red and yellow flag flies from the tower when he is in residence.....just like the Queen of England. We can see it from our upstairs windows....yet I've still to spot him out and about around town:

The title of the Duke of Uzes is the premier title in the French peerage and comes right after the princes of the blood. There may have been a revolution, however, somehow, the Duke of Uzes' ancestors managed to escape....if, and let's be hypothetical here, France were still a kingdom then his particular role would be to call out 'The King is dead. Long live the King' at each state funeral and to defend the honour of the queen mother. Didn't I say that he was very important.

This is one of the rooms that they take you on on the tour inside the Ducal Palace:

Here is a close up of some of the Duke's blue and white collection:

It's beautiful isn't it. I've been acquiring some blue and white for myself:

The plate featuring the Lancaster Bomber was a present for my husband....and just in case you are wondering, he loved it, as he has a bit of a thing for WW2 you do. It was hurriedly bought from a table outside an antique shop in Tetbury....we had twelve minutes on the ground there and twelve minutes only.....otherwise we would have missed the bus. A chunk of our time allocation was spent helping Faux Fuchsia recreate the 'Princess Diana out the front of the Tetbury newsagent' photo, circa 1981.

We made it to 'Highgrove'....on the bus....where they strategically don't let you into the gift shop until after you have consumed a champagne cream tea....which is probably why I bought the Isis flower brick as a souvenir.

It is no secret that I nurse an auction obsession which has been nurtured while we have been here in far we have bought antique Christofle cutlery....OK, so it was only the knives as we may have become momentarily confused during the bidding for the forks and spoons and missed out.....this picture of a rose in a blue and white vase and the platter. Conveniently, there is a website which shows you the auction calendar for upcoming sales throughout France and you can tinker with it to show what's happening nearby.

On Saturday, while my husband was in the UK looking at....surprise, surprise, WW2 aircraft for the weekend....I lugged myself and our four children into an auction house in Avignon. Trust me, this was no mean feet as it was tucked away in an industrial estate out in the back blocks. Not only did I have to navigate the car but once actually there I had to ensure that our four children didn't trash the place and lodge my absentee bid using my very veggie, unsophisticated French. This may have caused a few looks of derision to be cast my way.....yet I had my victory....securing both lots that I bid on for the lowest estimate.

The blue pot came from one of my favourite shops in the village and is made of Uzes pottery:

But wait there's more.....last week I drove myself and the two year old to the Les Olivades factory near at Saint Etienne du Gres and came home with discounted blue and white fabric....which I'm seeing turned into cushions, backed and piped with contrasting emerald green and hot pink, to go with my existing  toile sofa and turkish carpets on the upstairs landing....all the way back home in Hobart:

Anyway, this morning on my jog....yes, no skiving off for me.....I was thinking about Vita's tower at Sissinghurst:

I've just finished reading her novel 'All Passion Spent' and I don't understand how it's escaped my notice until now. I loved this sent shivers down my spine, hearing Vita's voice from across time, exploring themes relating to a woman's ability to control her own life....with the conflicting issues of marriage, children and old age.....issues which are are as pertinent now as they were back when she wrote it.

Anyway, enough chatting, must wrench the baby out of bed and dash over to a brocante that I discovered this morning, when, of course, I didn't have my buy this:

Have a lovely weekend!


Thursday, 13 June 2013

Le Jogging.

So something had to give. Yesterday, after my jog, and I use the term loosely, as it was more of a walk interspersed with very brief spurts of running, I came home and ate a pain au chocolate and drank a coffee. I just don't know who I am anymore, either. Honestly, the days of Bikram Yoga at least five days a week, no sugar, no caffeine, healthy eating and wine only on the weekends are well and truly over.....if you were to ask my husband about this his face would break into a spontaneous smile and he'd no doubt tell you how insanely boring I used to be. Not any more.

In my defence, soon after we arrived here, I did embark on a FIVE hour round trip journey to do ONE Bikram Yoga class in Montpellier. It is a great studio and Naomi, who owns and runs it is lovely....even though, as a small business owner in France she endures all of the difficulties and bureaucracy that it involves singlehandedly....yet her dedication to sharing Bikram Yoga is truly impressive. I just wish that her studio was a little closer. Then, on Monday, I was all excited when I found a notice stuck to the door of the boulangerie.....maybe the alarm bells should have been ringing, yet that was the very same way that we found our lovely babysitter.....oh, except that her notice was in the wine shop.

Anyway, I thought that it was going to be a Mickey Mouse style of yoga, and seeing that I've had success with this style of yoga before in France....when I was pregnant and living near Beziers....and seeing that this class was here in the village, I decided to give it a go. That was how I found myself on Monday night, sitting, with my eyes closed, in a dance studio, which reeked of the pong of stale sweat and old vinyl, outside the boulevard in a warehouse complex. There may have been yoga mats on the floor....and yoga....albeit for....the voice. A crossed legged lady twanged on a sitar and sang Hindi sounds and chants at us, which we mimicked back...for an hour and a half. Having been out to lunch  at L'Authentique in the nearby village of St Siffret and eaten the two course Formule Gourmande and drunk pink wine, I really don't think it could have even made the tiniest dint:

So, the fact remains that I'm scared of growing out of my clothes, and even though my friend Faux Fuchsia warns me that it will give me wrinkles....there's nothing for it but to jog. And jog as opposed to walk. Anyway, when I was tossing and turning at 4am this morning and giving into a good old dwell on how our time in Uzes is flying past at the speed of light....we only have four weeks left before we head off further afield to explore Sweden, Denmark and Ireland, the jogging solution revealed itself. Along with ditching Fleetwood Mac as the soundtrack and reverting to the old tried and true Blondie, I need to stop taking the scenic route. See what I mean:

Of course I have to take photos. The other day I even passed another jogger, jogging, only to discover her a few kilometres along the track.....picking a bouquet of wild Flowers:

And that is what this particular track is like....spellbindingly beautiful, with flowers, chateaux, white horses, distant glimpses back over to the village and the garrigue. It may be a feast for the eyes yet it also smells intoxicating.....with whiffs of honey, herbs, broom, lavender and down in the valley, ivy and leaf mold.

It is also perilously dangerous as the elevated sections of the track run along the top of a cliff and are made of a hodge podge of misshapen rocks and stones which were probably in existence way back in time when the Romans were building the 50km long aqueduct from Uzes to Nimes. The source of the spring, which fed the aqueduct, is down on my jogging route and further along.....further than I'm prepared to jog..... is the magnificent Pont du Gard. This track is so perilous that I have already cut my leg and my hand and yesterday, I lost my footing altogether. Mercifully,  the Gods must have been smiling on me, as somehow I managed to steer my trajectory and fall over onto the waist height grassy side....and not to my death over the cliff. In those long two seconds before I hit the ground, I was worried about landing in dog poo. I didn't.

Anyway, my husband hasn't had any problems with his chosen method of exercise as he has .....a bike.....and they are BIG on bikes here. Although, to give him his due, he did suffer last time we were in France and he was obsessed with it is an absolute rowing wasteland. We hadn't been here for a week before he had joined the local cycling group, who go out three times a week.....for four hours at a time. So far, this group of MAMIL's have convinced him to shave his legs and buy special cycling sunglasses to accessorise with his kit. Next weekend, they are even going stage an attempt to ride to the top of Provence's highest mountain....Mt Ventoux....which looms on the horizon and can be seen from here. Oh, and of course, after a bike ride you drink France. Meanwhile, I too will be taking to the road....jogging.


Tuesday, 11 June 2013


Words cannot describe just how much I adore the colour pink, so I thought I'd show you instead.

 Accents of pink are everywhere in France:

I'm the first to admit that I'm rather partial to dressing our baby up in a touch of pink:

Yet, her brothers and almost twelve year old sister are not so keen on me doing the same to them.

I automatically gravitate to pink for me, too. Here's the Kate Spade bow bangle which I picked up in London:

.....which perfectly matches the Dior Granville tote that was my souvenir of our most recent trip to Paris:

It's beautiful, yet after only six weeks the leather has ripped where the strap connects to the bag....there's no Dior shop around these parts so I need to now get the bag to Lyon or Paris to be repaired.....did someone say Paris?

Anyway, now for some flowers. Here's a traffic stopping cherry blossom tree we found in the Jardin des Plantes in Paris:

...and a riotously beautiful pink horse chestnut tree just up the way in the tiny village of La Roque - sur - ceze down here in Gard:

...and a simple bouquet of roses picked in a friend's Espondeilhan garden:

There's a lot of pink to be had in London, too:

Especially at the Chelsea Flower Show:

I grow this same David Austin 'Scepter'd Isle' rose in my garden in Hobart:

And this rose is now destined for a wall in our house in Hobart:

as surprise, surprise, somehow I made a successful absentee bid at an auction in Avignon on husbands parting words, as we dropped him at the airport en route to the preview at the action house, were to let the ten year old practice his French numbers by bidding at the auction. Needless to say, I didn't think that was a very sensible idea.

Designer's Guild is good at pink:

As is Hermes.....we watched them actually printing scarves at the Saatchi Gallery, yet so far I haven't been able to find this 'Parures des Maharajas' patternn any of the boutiques down here in the South of France:

....maybe it'll turn up in Aix en Provence.

So what's your favourite colour?