Archive for December 2008

Ma bicyclette

Have you seen all of the bicycles in Europe? It is a valid and accepted form of transport with appropriate infrastructure provided alongside their footpaths and roads. Often you will see, running parallel to the motorway, the heads of people gliding along obviously attached to bodies on bikes. The inner cities are full of bicycles and riders. Amsterdam is quite an eye-opener and pedestrians need to be fully aware as they try to navigate their way around – especially those of us from Australia where the cars travel on the other side of the road. Not only do you have to look around for car traffic but also for bicycle traffic. There are even traffic lights for bicycles.


With the price of fuel rising steeply and continuously, the ridiculous road traffic jams, and the sardine-packed trains and trams, Melbourne is finally seeing more and more people using bicycles for commuting to work and school. I think it is a great development and hope our bureaucrats start to get serious about providing sensible infrastructure to accommodate this.


Whenever I can I ride to work. I live close to one of the places I work and so it only takes me about 10 minutes to get there. I have two bikes: one is a cheap run-around; the other is an expensive road racer. On weekends I join a group of road cyclists and we follow a regular route ending at a local bakery for coffee and a chat. I love it and have been doing this for about 6 or 7 years now. So I don all of the lycra gear and bike shoes with cleats and try to power along. There can be some dangerous situations with cars along the way, but I err on the side of caution always and tend to cling to the gutter if necessary.


Riding to work is totally different. I dress for work, get out the heavy solid chariot and slowly wind my way along the deserted back streets taking short cuts through car parks and arrive at work stress-free and without the trouble of having to locate an all-day car-park for my car (which is conveniently parked at home in a lock-up garage).


In Europe I saw well-dressed people sitting upright atop their old rattley bikes serenely turning the wheels of their jalopy and being shown due courtesy by those in cars and busses. We here in Australia could certainly learn a thing or two about sharing our roads. It is a real pity more people don’t use bicycles for transport for those little trips to the shops. We would all be a little bit healthier for it too.


Riding my bike to work makes me feel French. Especially after seeing first-hand the delightful way the communities accept this great form of travel in the beautiful, sophisticated, cosmopolitan and historic cities of Europe.


Add a comment December 23, 2008

Entre nous

Entre Nous: A Woman’s guide to Finding Her Inner French Girl by Debra Ollivier was published in 2003. This book examines the “French woman” in an attempt to define that elusive ‘je ne sais quoi’. Debra Ollivier is a Californian writer who married a Frenchman and lived in France for a decade. She has written articles for Salon, Harpers, Playboy, Le Monde and others.

w_paris_p0115Ollivier says “Edith Wharton reminds us that “the four words that preponderate in French speech and literature are: glory, love, voluptuousness, and pleasure.” Add to that list self-possession, discretion, authenticity and sensualitity, and you’re well on your way to finding your inner French girl.


I found this book mildly interesting, however Two Lipsticks and a Lover” by Helena Frith Powell I enjoyed reading more. Ollivier does offer some great resources for further reading, watching, researching and I have listed them below in no particular order:


French Women

Jeanne D’Arc

Jeanne Moreau

Simone de Beauvoir


Josephine Baker

Audrey Tatou

Marguerite Duras

Marie Antoinette

Anais Nin

Madame de Pompadour

Madame Clicquot

Catherine de Medicis

Edith Piaf

Pauline de Rothschild

Madame Catherine de Rambouillet


Josephine Bonaparte

Coco Chanel

Rosa Bonheur



French ways and their meaning by Edith Wharton

The second sex by Simone de Beauvoir

L’Invitee by Simone de Beauvoir

The hungry heart by Josephine Baker

The sea wall by Marguerite Duras

Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert

Le divorce by Diane Johnson

Marie Antoinette: the journey by Antonia Fraser

The delta of Venus by Anais Nin

Madame de Pompadour by Nancy Mitford

Passion simple by Annie Ernaux

The art of eating by M.F.K. Fisher

The food lover’s guide to Paris by Patricia Wells

Mastering the art of French cooking by Julia child, Louisette Bertholle and Simone Beck

Cheri by Colette

Break of day by Colette

Gigi by Colette

Earthly paradise by Robert Phelps

Chanel: her style and her life by Janet Wallach

Joan of Arc by Mark Twain

Catherine de Medicis by Balzac

The Flaneur: a stroll through the paradoxes of Paris by Edmund White

The power of style by Annette Tapert and Diana Edkins

Elle décor: the grand book of French style by Francois Baudot and Jean Demachy

The castle of pictures and other stories: a grandmother’s tales by George Sand

Bonjour Tristress by Francoise Sagan



La double vie de Veronique

Les amants

Jules and Jim

Trop belle pour toi

8 femmes

La femme Nikita

Contes des quatre saisons

Entre nous

Un dimanche a la campagne

Bounjour Tristresse

Henry and June

Le bonheur

Milou en Mai

Babette’s feast



La vie en Rose

M saison preferee



Les Parapluies de Cherbourg

Un home et une femme


Looks like I have a little more reading and researching to do yet…


Add a comment December 16, 2008

Les Pages

One way to get into that French mood is to play French music. And there are some fabulous tunes out there. I particularly love the song Les Pages by Myrtille. Of course I could not understand the lyrics at first but I loved the melody and arrangement. I heard her version with instrumental on the CD Paris by Putumayo. Then I found on YouTube the version with just her singing and it is amazing. I found the French lyrics online, and then used Babelfish to translate them into English. Beautiful!


J’ai ecrit des monceaux des pages, sur des papiers differents…


It doesn’t matter if you can understand the lyrics or not, the feel of the French culture permeates your soul whenever you listen to French music. It is fun to try to work out the words too and see if your understanding of the song is on track. I find when I am finding the raw Aussie culture grating on my nerves that listening to French or Italian music soothes my sensitive soul and reminds me of the nature of beauty and that there are some people in this world who share this appreciation.

Add a comment December 8, 2008






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