Tag Archives: french style

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.

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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.

Things That Make Me Happy

27 May

Inspired by a post on the talented Carla Coulson’s blog, I decided to make a list of things that make me happy. Feel free to post yours in the comments below….

Bubble baths

Bath
Brightly painted toenails

Toenails
Towels fresh from the dryer

Mojito
Royal Mojitos

Mojito made with rum, lime, sugar, mint, club soda, served in a tall glass.
Weekends away

Bulong vines
Peter Alexander pyjamas

PJs
Working on my novel

Laptop
Fresh food markets

Fresh vegetables at a Paris market, Paris, France
Summertime picnics

Picnic basket
Reading in bed on rainy days

Reading in Bed
Drinking fancy tea

Teacup
Snow falling on cobblestones

Snow
Mastering a difficult yoga pose (read, all of them)

Yoga
Macarons

laduree-macarons.jpg
Falling asleep on the couch

Puppy snooze
Going for long walks through new neighbourhoods

Walk
Inspiring talks with people who believe in me

Inspire
Puppies & Monkeys

Puppy Monkey
Cooking, eating and hanging out with my husband

Max and I

What makes you happy?

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Bath img courtesy of
aka Laverne on Flickr.
Toenail img courtesy of
haunted by Leonard Cohen on Flickr.
Fresh towels img courtesy of
cattoo on Flickr.
Mojito img courtesy of
TheCulinaryGeek on Flickr.
Pyjama img courtesy of
sillypucci on Flickr.
Writing img courtesy of
joelgoodman on Flickr.
Market img courtesy of
Kevin Oke Photography on Flickr.
Reading book in bed img courtesy of
Reena Mahtani on Flickr.
Teacup img courtesy of
MyLifeThroughPhotography on Flickr.
Snow img courtesy of
Tavallai on Flickr.
Yoga img courtesy of
AmandaD_TX on Flickr.
Walk img courtesy of
gari.baldi on Flickr.
Inspire img courtesy of
Mark Brannan on Flickr.
Puppy & Monkey img courtesy of
elaine… on Flickr.

The Podium Perspective

20 May

Podium Dancer

On Friday night, I danced on a podium in a nightclub.

Now, my dear loyal readers (I mean you, Mum), allow me to assure you that no, I haven’t started turning tricks on the side because the life of a writer isn’t lucrative enough.

Before Friday night, I had never been the girl who dances on the table. In fact, I wasn’t even the kind of girl who goes to nightclubs. My ideal Friday night of late consists of getting a jump start on my clothes washing and watching episodes of Gossip Girl with my husband (sorry Max). The last time I had been in a nightclub was probably three years ago. And even then, it was an Afterwork in Paris, and I’m not sure that even counts.

But, we had been invited to a friend’s surprise birthday party, and in the spirit of doing things outside my comfort zone, I agreed. The arranged meeting time was 9pm, which I’m told is early in the nightclub realm. In my realm, 9pm is firmly slippers-and-peppermint-tea-time.

Slippers and tea

And so, it was with a little apprehension that I approached the evening. I agonised over what to wear (you know, more than usual). I am a hopeless comfort-dresser at the best of times, and the thought of anything vaguely short or sleeveless in May in Melbourne was enough to send me running for cover. Eventually, I decided upon a brightly coloured, long-sleeved silk print dress, over opaque black stockings. I added a black blazer and my coat, for warmth, but the shoe situation made me hesitate. My three-year-old black boots are on their last legs, fine for my somewhat casual office job, but not, I feared, chic nightclub worthy. I figured heels were the only safe bet, and so I coaxed my reluctant slipper-coddled toes into the patent black stilettos I’d purchased in the Christmas sales. More proof positive that I am not accustomed to this nightclub thingy.

Spice Market

We arrived early enough for the maze of red barrier ropes outside Spice Market to seem superfluous and a little hopeful. The over-exercised security guard branded me quickly with the word ‘SPICE’ in smudgy black stamp ink and that was it, we were admitted.

The other invitees arrived, the champagne flowed and the DJ somehow managed to play only songs I liked and knew the words to. Before I knew it, the birthday girl and friends were clamouring up onto one of the podiums to dance. They put out a hand for me to join them.

My immediate reaction was to say no, to shake my head and smile and tell them to go on without me. And then I realised, that was bullsh*t. And so up I climbed, somewhat awkwardly, my back heel sinking into the cushioned seat as I stepped onto the platform. And whilst there’s nothing I like less than being the centre of attention, something strange happened while I was up there. I realised that the attention was nothing to do with me. I noticed a girl in the crowd nearby, shuffling from foot to foot, watching us nervously. I knew exactly what she was thinking, because that girl, she’s me. I caught her eye and offered a wide smile, trying to convey with one facial expression that I understood, that I got it, and that the only difference between the girl on the platform and the girl in the crowd, is perspective.

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Podium dancer img courtesy of Aran Chandran on Flickr.
Slippers and tea img courtesy of
emdot on Flickr.
Spice Market img courtesy of
avlxyz 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.

Gaufres de Chez Meert2

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


Wedding Photo1

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!).

Wedding Photo3

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…

Wedding Photo6

Wedding Photo5

The perfect weekend!

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