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Marriage, Maldives and More…

20 Aug

Pen to Paper Media


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It’s been a long time between drinks on here. In the last month I’ve been in four different countries, eaten more dodgy plane food than anyone reasonably should and consumed a great many more passionfruit mojitos than I care to count.

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It’s been a busy time what with Wedding 2.0 and all, but also a highly relaxing time, with ten days spent luxuriating in the Maldives on our long awaited honeymoon.

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With all that snorkelling, sunbathing (beneath six layers of Banana Boat Extra Strength 30+), cocktail drinking, buffet bingeing and general doing-what-i-like-ness, you’d expect the return to reality to be a shock to the system. Indeed, I’ve written (okay, whinged) about post-holiday blues before. And yet, I find myself feeling inexpressibly happy as I tap out this blog post, while sitting on a rattly old government bus on my way home after an 8pm finish.

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But why, I hear you…

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The Paris Writer

10 Jun

Paris Morning Light

The Dream

I wake early, before my alarm. I dress comfortably and warmly and close the apartment door quietly behind me. I walk the short distance to the bakery on the corner. There is a closer bakery, but the croissants at this one are second to none. I wave good morning to Philippe, the greengrocer’s son who is busy setting his fruit stand on the rue Cadet. With a warm baguette nestled under my arm, I walk the long way home, savouring the half-light in which everything still feels new and hopeful. The day is yet to tire us out, wear us down, or disappoint with the things it does not bring. I climb the stairs to the apartment quickly, excited by the work waiting for me today. Perhaps if I am efficient this morning, I can take a few hours off this afternoon and go sit by the Canal St Martin. Cheered by this thought, I unlock the door. With one hand, I spread my baguette with a thin layer of salted butter, and with the other, I gently ease my laptop open and take a deep breath.

Snooze

The Reality

I wake violently to the incessant sound of my alarm ringing from across the room. Leaping out of bed to silence the infernal thing, I smack my shin on the edge of the coffee table. Hopping on one foot and cursing under my breath, I consider going back to bed. But, I’m up now; I might as well make the most of it. I pull on my oldest dressing gown, which is looking decidedly grubby with reminders of last week’s spaghetti bolognese on the sleeve. I flick the switch on the ancient IKEA kettle and rummage in the cupboard for some stale breakfast biscuits. I promise myself that tomorrow I will make the effort to go to the bakery. The sun is already streaming in through the window, so with one hand shielding my eyes against the glare, I roughly force my sleeping laptop awake. I have two articles to submit and I’m three days late with my blog. I think longingly of an afternoon stroll along the quais of the Seine, Berthillon ice cream in hand. Quickly I push the thought away. At this rate, I’ll be lucky to be finished by midnight.

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Paris in the morning image courtesy of l.gence on Flickr.
Snooze image courtesy of MacUK on Flickr.

Books About Paris

3 Jun

Books in Paris

It is fair to say that books about Paris are in no short supply. As someone who is writing a book about Paris, I am painfully aware of the fierce competition. Books about Paris fill my shelves, and I can’t resist ducking into Dymocks to see if there are any new ones on the shelves. But, there are some that keep me coming back.

*Paris Tango by Carla Coulson

Carla manages in one frame to capture the nuances of French life, in a way that armed with a thousand words I could only dream of. I love everything about her book. The weight of it, the texture of the cover, the old-school red placemarker. Of course, her words are magnificent too, once you manage to tear your eyes from her lovingly captured photographs. Her blog, which I stumbled across only recently, is also a delight.

*A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway

A Moveable Feast

Indeed, Mr Hemingway requires no introduction. I only picked up a copy of A Moveable Feast this year. I think I put it off for so long because I was intimidated, and perhaps also because it is home to one of the most over quoted lines ever used to describe Paris. The reality, however, is that A Moveable Feast reads as if you have plopped down next to Hemingway in a Latin Quarter bar and he’s telling you about his perfectly ordinary day. It is a slender and light as Carla’s book is solid, and is intensely captivating in its brevity.

*Almost French by Sarah Turnbull

Almost French Cat

Almost French is everything I hope my novel will be. I would love nothing more than to have my as yet unnamed (suggestions welcome!) book sit side by side with Ms Turnbull’s. That possibility equally excites and terrifies me.

What are your favourite books about Paris?

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Paris books img courtesy of Roman Lashkin on Flickr.
A Moveable Feast img courtesy of life serial on Flickr.
Almost French with cat img courtesy of [o] suze q … [packing for firenze] on Flickr.

Lazy Sunday Façon Parisienne…

13 May

Paris

Every now and then I like to play a game called ‘If we were in Paris today…’ For example, on drizzly grey days, I imagine taking myself to La Mosquée de Paris for a glass of mint tea and some quiet reflection.

Mint Tea

On sunny Saturdays, I picture Max and I picnicking along the banks of the Seine, and perhaps afterwards, strolling through the Ile-St Louis, Berthillon glace in our hands.

Berthillon

Yesterday, we awoke around 8am, and knowing that a lengthy to do list awaited our attention we reluctantly dragged ourselves out of bed. After breakfast, we returned to bed for a quick fifteen minute snooze. Two and a half hours later, we awoke again, refreshed and relaxed. I began feeling guilty about all the things I should have done that morning. I should have written a chapter of my novel. I should have made a start on our wedding thank you cards. I should have written this blog post. I should have done the washing. Washed the dishes. Gone grocery shopping.

Snooze

But I thought back to all the Sunday’s Max and I had spent together in Paris. Almsot without exception we would sleep in until 11am, springing out of bed only to make a quick dash to the Franprix before it closed at midday, then returning to the couch for a lazy afternoon watching movies. Later, perhaps we’d walk around Montmartre, or welcome friends for an aperitif.

And so, instead of spending the rest of the day running around like maniacs doing all the things on our list, we decided to head out for a leisurely lunch in an Italian restaurant. Over plates of fresh pasta, we worked out that we could combine some of the less-fun tasks with some of the more interesting ones, and decided that several things could wait for another week.

To do list

After all, it’s what we would have done in Paris.

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Paris image courtesy of filipealberto on Flickr.
Mint tea image courtesy of
P Donovan on Flickr.
Berthillon image courtesy of maki on Flickr.

Snooze image courtesy of MacUK on Flickr.
To do list image courtesy of vvvracer on Flickr.

Gaufres de Chez Meert

22 Apr

Meert, une institution rue Esquermoise

As the cold weather begins to envelop Melbourne this week, I’ve been thinking about Lille. For me, visiting Max’s hometown means a great many things. It means cold weather, sometimes snow. It means comfort food and hot drinks and long, indulgent meals en famille. It also means eating the gaufres de Chez Meert.

It’s no secret that I have a bit of a sweet tooth. From delicate macarons to thick slices of brioche studded with sugar crystals and spread with nutella, visiting Lille is a little bit like a trip to your grandparents house, where all the things that are off limits in normal life are allowed.

When max first told me about the waffles on offer at Chez Meert, I was unenthusiastic. As a child in Australia, waffles came frozen in boxes, and on rare occasions we were allowed to pop one in the toaster and eat it drenched in maple syrup with a scoop of Peter’s vanilla ice cream. Delicious, yes, but not in comparison to all the other finely crafted sweet treats France has to offer. I had also tasted a waffle in Belgium a few months earlier, and whilst I enjoyed the nutella-smeared, whipped cream-adorned concoction, I wouldn’t have returned in a hurry. Max simply shook his head at my reticence and said ‘Tu verra’.

And see, I did.

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These ‘waffles’ could not be further from those of my childhood, or the one I’d eaten in Brussels. These were long, delicate, pliable tongue-shaped wafers, sandwiched together by an intoxicating vanilla bean paste. They were as moist as other waffles are dry, and require no accompaniments whatsoever, except perhaps a strong espresso to cut through the sweetness.

In the interest of research, I tasted not only their classic flavour, but their speculoos one too. And though we all know how much I love speculoos, I think the classic just wins out in the flavour race.

Getting to eat a gaufres from Chez Meert has long been a treat exclusively reserved for trips to Lille, and the only way to enjoy them back home in Paris’ 9th arrondissement was to buy up big on our last day in Lille and practise extreme self-control on the car ride home.  But, with the 2012 opening of a Meert café in Paris, this is no longer the case.

So be sure to check them out next time you are in Paris, or Lille. You’ll never think of waffles the same way again.

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Chez Meert image courtesy of fred_v on Flickr.
Waffle image courtexy of
bionicgrrrl on Flickr.

French-Australian Wedding Part One

16 Apr


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As many of you know, I recently married my French fiancé Max. Putting together a wedding with two sets of cultural norms to consider was a little bit of a challenge at times, but mostly it was a whole lot of fun.

As we are having a second wedding in France in July, the February event had more of an Australian flavour, but with some nice French touches. We were married at Leaves & Fishes in the Hunter Valley, in their function space ‘Feast’, which we picked for its distinctly European feel.

Wedding Photo2

I walked in to the song ‘Intermission’ by French-Canadian singer Coeur de Pirate, and we signed our registry to the hauntingly beautiful strains of Aboriginal artist Geoffrey Gurrumul Yunupingu, who Max and once I saw perform live in Paris. My mum did a reading in English, and Max’s godmother, in French. The entire ceremony was conducted in both languages, and afterwards, we toasted with a French-style Australian-made sparkling wine.

Our wedding cake was a delicious fusion of the two cultures, square chocolate and vanilla cupcakes decorated with an assortment of iconic images from the two countries. The lovely ladies at Kiss Me Cakes in Sydney did an incredible job, and in the days that followed we were glad that we had over catered! We also had lolly jars filled with sweets from our childhoods, Caramello Koalas and Carambars (yum!).

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The following day we held a brunch at my aunt and uncle’s property, with sausages on the barbeque and a game of backyard cricket on one side; and delicious croissants and an intense match of pétanque on the other…

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The perfect weekend!

Les Intouchables

8 Apr

Les Intouchables

Usually when someone tells me I MUST do something, it really puts me off. I’m not sure if that means I have inherently wilful nature, or what, but there is no surer way to make sure I don’t do something. I am even less motivated if the thing in question has taken the world by storm (i.e. Twilight, 50 Shades, cake pops…)

But, as I’ve admitted before, sometimes when I give in, the results are truly amazing (like when I finally decided to give Il Solito Posto a go). And so, a month ago I finally gave in and watched Les Intouchables. Everyone from my old friends in Paris, to members of Max’s extended family, to English speakers who had seen it at the film festival had raved about it, practically non-stop for a year. But for some strange reason I just didn’t want to. I guess I didn’t imagine that any film could be THAT good, and that I’d inevitably be disappointed. I know, I know, it’s not like every movie I watch is of impeccable standard or anything (I have seen both the Sex and the City movies more than once), but on this topic I would not budge.

I made excuses not to watch it. We were actually in France when it was released at the cinema, but I wanted to wait and watch it with French subtitles. Then, when Max brought the DVD back with him after his latest Paris trip, I let it languish in the cupboards. And when Max dragged it out to watch one lazy Sunday afternoon, I settled in for a snooze on the couch.

Puppy snooze

Now, it isn’t often that I’ll admit to being astoundingly mistaken, but this was one such occasion. I am about to become one of those people I hate, who tells everyone they MUST watch this film. For this, I apologise, but really, you must.

It is the spectacular opposite of politically correct, simultaneously bound by and gloriously free from stereotypes. It is a no holds barred, deliciously vibrant examination of how rich life can be, irrespective of circumstance.

I know that you aren’t convinced, because I wasn’t either. But go on, even if it’s just so you can come back on here and say ‘You were wrong, I hated it!’ – just watch it.

Go on.

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Puppy snooze image courtesy of Josh Koonce on Flickr.

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