Filou’s Patisserie

DSC01128It was a cold sunny day in Melbourne and I was in Carlton to watch a game of Aussie Rules Football. The stadium was still closed, it was lunchtime and I was hungry. I don’t know this part of the city well and so I went walking in search of food.

Joggers and cyclists exercised following the paths in the park. I passed the cemetery. DSC01125 The next busy road was Lygon Street, but not the part that is famous for the cafes and restaurants. I noticed a corner shop that looked like a café. Can you imagine how delighted I was to have discovered an authentic French style bakery – Filou’s Patisserie?filous_patisserie

I eagerly entered to find a queue of people patiently waiting in the small interior, quietly deciding on what to choose, before it was their turn for service by the busy staff. Glass cabinets were filled with delicious food typical of a French Patisserie. There were Macaroons, bread of all types, lemon tarts, croissants of course, spinach pies, Madeline’s, chocolate cakes, and more. I bought a savory vegetarian croissant and wandered back to the football stadium.

1 comment June 2, 2009
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Chez Moi

I am designing a new house with plans to build it in the near future. The location for this house is a quaint coastal town with heritage buildings. I want to design the house in a heritage style and have been researching libraries and the internet. Now the idea has come to me to combine “heritage” with “French Provincial”. So I have changed the direction of my research and I am now trawling the resources for images that fit this idea.

I am not sure if this mix in an Australian setting will work, but that is the direction of my thoughts at the moment. I will see where it leads.

Is this French-Australian?

Is this French-Australian?

Copy of PICT2652

Add a comment May 15, 2009
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Le Tour d’Otway

Yesterday I took part in my own mini Tour de France in the SuperSprint Great Ocean & Otway Ride with about 3000 other cyclists. It is a 145 km circuit beginning and ending in Torquay and it loops through the Otway Ranges and then along the Great Ocean Road in Victoria Australia.

It was first light when we arrived at the start line on a brisk Autumn morning with our pockets full of energy bars, water bottles full, and our bike gear and bike lights on.

The cyclists started in groups and we were soon weaving our way out of Torquay over undulating hills. The first 30 km was a cold warm-up through the mist. The cyclists took up one side of the road forcing motorists across the double lines to get by. Police in cars and on motorbikes monitored the chaos. Intersections were well controlled by the event organisers.

I cycled through the first refreshment stop at the 30 km mark while many chose to stop here. I was soon in a peloton of about 40 cyclists all travelling well together. Two columns of cyclists moved at about 32 km/hr into a slight head wind, past cow paddocks, in perfect unison. The cyclist by my side told me about his upcoming trip to France to follow the Tour de France on his bicycle. He was excited about this 50th birthday present to himself. It was great to be a part of such a random and dynamic formation. We held this together for some time until eventually a bottle neck occurred caused by some slower cyclists and this broke the group and I found myself cycling alone for awhile.

At the 70 km point I stopped at Deans Marsh where my husband was waiting for me. He managed to stay with the peloton and said they picked up speed after the group split and were then cycling at about 36 km/hr. I ate a banana and a rich chocolate flavoured power gel, and drank some water. I still felt good and knew the next section was a long, steep climb.

I took my time here trying to conserve my energy. Cyclists crashed in front of me during this section in two separate incidents. One guy had his chain come off and the person behind him came down too. They were OK. I don’t know what caused the other crash. In these situations with lots of cyclists bearing down you shout out “Cycles down!” and indicate with a hand up to let everyone behind you know to slow down and be aware.

At about 78 km I felt euphoric. I told myself to really enjoy the moment: cycling along through the treed forest on a beautiful sunny morning – although still uphill at this point.

I was surprised to reach the top then quickly powered down the 10 km descent into Lorne. This is one of the best things adults can do for fun, in my opinion. The road was clear, traffic was minimal, the cyclists had spread out, and I was free-wheeling like a dare devil. I did brake into some of the tighter corners.

I didn’t stop at the refreshment point at Lorne. I had cycled 100 km and had a hard 45 km left to go following the Great Ocean Road. My leg muscles were fatigued and my arse aching from the bike seat. This section of the road was busy with vehicle traffic, tourists, surfers and day-trippers. The sea was aqua and the waves were setting up perfectly for a Saturday surf or swim.

I stopped at Aireys Inlet for a muesli bar, water and jelly beans. I had to walk across the road to go to the public toilets but was held up as I waited for about 100 or more black leather clad bikies to roar past. The blokes all relieve themselves Tour de France style propping anywhere along the road side, but since I am a lady…

Huge smoke clouds rose into the sky ahead of us as another bushfire raged out of control and appeared to be moving towards our finish line in Torquay.

I cycled on feeling very fatigued and ready to finish, but happy with my progress. Long steady climbs into and out of Angelsea were made more difficult as we were shrouded in the thick smoke and ash from the bushfire. Other cyclists encouraged me on with motivational words.

With 15 km to go my husband and I joined a peloton of about 12 cyclists and we powered to the finish line at about 35 km/hr under clear blue skies. My cycle time was about 5 hours 50 minutes with an average speed of about 25.6 km/hr.

Later, meeting up with friends, we discover that one man had his whole lower leg bandaged as he had come down early in the cycle and had gravel rash. He managed to cycle on and completed the ride though, before receiving treatment at the finish line. Another friend became light-headed during the long descent into Lorne, stopped, but her breathing became irregular and she turned white and was cold. She was taken by ambulance to the local hospital for observation but was later released. She didn’t look great when we saw her at dinner but she was cheerful enough.

On the whole the event was extremely well organised and the road support was fantastic. The cyclists were well behaved, considerate, friendly, and usually aware of other cyclists and vehicles and pedestrians. The most dangerous behaviour I witnessed was by an impatient local bus driver who passed a line of other motorists and cycles over double lines in the windy blind corners of the uphill ascent after Deans Marsh.

I now wonder if I should go back to my once a week social cycle, or should I start training for next year.

3 comments March 30, 2009
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Art and French Cafe

Today I took myself on a little “artist date” to borrow a term from Julia Cameron’s The Artists Way. I visited the local regional gallery to see an exhibition of the works of the Australian contemporary artist Jeffrey Smart.

I have always loved his art and I appreciate the bold colours, the graphical compositions, the realism of the renderings, and the little quirky improbabilities he adds. His portraits of Margaret Olley at Le Louvre, Clive James, and Germaine Greer are fabulous. Just what does the huge graffiti “R” represent?

cafe_gourmand_mt_eliza_24mar09Afterwards I visited Cafe Gourmand in Mount Eliza. The strong coffee was perfect and the Blueberry Amandine lovely and I sat at an outside table enjoying the surroundings and pondering the art I had seen. Cafe Gourmand is trying hard to be “French” as are so many others these days.

Add a comment March 24, 2009
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Attracting France

Even when there is an absence of the pursuit towards French things in my life, I find now that French things materialise in my experience, as if by magic. This should not surprise me as I am a firm believer in The Laws of Attraction.

In the course of my work day at the local library recently, an attractive man with an accent approached me to enquire about using the internet. He showed me his French passport. We had a little conversation comparing travel stories: my short visit to France last year; and his short visit now with his family. It is interesting to see your own country through the eyes of a first-time visitor. I wondered at the amazement he and his family would have going to somewhere like Uluru. He said he would love to go to the desert and also the Great Barrier Reef – maybe next time he hopes.

Later that day a woman asked me to help her find French language books. She was a visitor from Melbourne and wanted to practice her French language skills while on holiday from her French language class. We talked about our love of the French language and our lack of expertise.

I had ordered the purchase of the book Chocolate and Zucchini by Clotilde Dusoulier and it arrived for me. I have been reading her delightful blog and by chance came across the book of the same name in a local bookshop. I appreciate the way this young French woman has followed her own passion for food and cooking and turned her life towards the pursuit of this love.

It just goes to prove that what you think about will materialise and how easy it is to attract like-minded souls into your life. My passion for the elusive qualities associated with the French lifestyle transcends my Australian ways of living. Even when I feel my life is overshadowed with work, housework, social gatherings in an English-speaking community, Aussie rules football, traffic, drought, bushfires, and this hot Australian Summer, French stuff peaks in and reminds me of my passion.

2 comments March 3, 2009
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Le Brasier Australien

“Le Brasier Australien” was reported worldwide including in the French news. While France suffers through more Winter storms, bushfires ravage Australia.

Nothing reminds you more of your genesis than environmental forces. Bushfires define Australia. They are part of our ecology. Indeed much native flora needs fire for germination.

After years of drought, depleted water catchments, severe household water restrictions, dry crunchy gardens, and dirty cars, our surrounding bushland is tinder dry. All it takes is a carelessly disposed of cigarette butt, a lightning strike, or the twisted motives of a fire bug, to set the mulch alight. And that quickly rises into the unstoppable fire beast that destroys all in its path.

It is frightening, and I have experienced those events before in my life. It serves to firmly remind me that I am Australian to the core.

Add a comment February 11, 2009
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The spoken word

One way to get your daily fix of hearing the French spoken word is to watch the French news on SBS TV. Not only does it immerse you in the beautiful language but it also really helps to improve your comprehension of the French language.

The video vision that accompanies the news stories assists with understanding what is being spoken about. It is fun to pick out the words I do know and then to try to discern the overall story. It also reaffirms pronunciation.

Recently I watched a story about the latest storm in France that damaged homes, cut electricity supply, closed train lines, and caused the deaths of some people. I was amused to hear the news team interview the workers on the train lines who were clearing fallen trees from the tracks.

On the French news I have seen a movie review about the latest movie Slumdog Millionaire where they met the young Indian actors in their real homes in the poor parts of Mumbai. I had seen this movie and loved it. I was upset during the opening scenes to see the circumstances in which many Indian people live. It is a beautifully crafted movie.

Today on the French News I watched a story about protests across France. I am not quite sure, but I think the millions of people marching and waving placards were protesting about some proposed privatisation of the French departments of education, medical services, postal services and probably others.

A couple of days ago Australia was mentioned because two French tennis players were playing in the Australian Open in Melbourne. Our weather here during this tournament has been incredibly hot with the last three days reaching 43°C, 44°C and 45°C. I can’t begin to know how the players can withstand the heat on centre court in the enclosed stadium. The officials finally saw sense and closed the roof. Meanwhile in France snow falls. The two French players Jo-Wilfred Tsonga and Gilles Simon were defeated but both played beautifully and did well against some fine opponents. Rafael Nadal was the eventual winner of this Grand Slam event.

I hope that if I continue to watch the French news on TV as often as I can then my French speaking skills will improve. It also transports me to France for 30 minutes.

Add a comment February 3, 2009
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Beauty

This search for “Frenchness” is about beauty. But what is beauty? And what do I mean in this context? Is it the curled metal legs on rustic furniture? Is it the carelessly draped scarf across the shoulders? Red lipstick on pouty lips? Does it relate to the Fibonacci series of perfect ratio in design? An attitude of confidence? A pink powder puff?

Perhaps it is to do with inner beauty and living with authenticity? In an article Patricia Varley expresses a feeling of trepidation because she felt her outer image of beauty and confidence did not truly represent the fragile and unconfident girl she felt inside, as she prepared to stand before an audience of women to speak about beauty. I think she expresses the feelings many of us feel often in our lives.

In my search for this sense of style I see plenty of examples of what it is NOT: badly chosen and ill-fitting clothes; excess weight; crude behaviour; lack of manners; road-rage and shopping centre-rage and life-rage; loud-mouthed speech; bullying; ignorance; laziness; lack of care of the environment and community; lack of kindness…..

venus_de_miloBeauty is not about superficial and popular ideals. It is rooted firmly in history. It is not about trying to adopt some artificial notion about what is popular. For example, tattoos can be beautiful pieces of art and I can see some kind of strange beauty in a unique application on an individual once in a while. But on the whole I think they are ugly pieces of poor art scrawled over the sagging flesh of ignorant people desperately trying to be accepted into some abstract notion of “being radical”, “bad”, “cool”, or “out-there”. And on a perfect athletic human specimen it is like bad graffiti. I know I am out of sync with this thinking but so be it.

Beauty is about finding your authentic self and living your authentic life with assuredness and confidence. It is the possession of your own unique self, embracing it, celebrating it, and living your chosen activities knowing your Self, expressing it, and still gently allowing space for others in our community – even if they choose to put bad tattoos on saggy flesh. It is caring, kindness and courtesy. It is composure. It is awareness, celebration, joy, and fun. It is not false. It is Truth. It is essential and yet the mystery remains and captures the eye and the heart. It is not an exhibition but an appreciation.

Beauty, therefore, is not just a look; it is a way of living. It is a process. It unfolds gently like an opening bloom. It can take some of us many years to realise we don’t need to do what we are told by others. And still more time to have the confidence to live that lifestyle we have discovered to be our own preference. For me I know that surrounding myself with objects that meet my notion of beauty helps lift my mood; a bunch of roses in a vase, art that pleases me, music, the French language, a well-set dinner table offering a nourishing meal, cotton sheets, playing my piano (badly but playing anyway), painting my own art when I do feel inspired, doing yoga, cycling to work rather than driving my car.

My search for this elusive quality continues; not in earnest but with delight.

3 comments January 22, 2009
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French blogs

I subscribe to and read several blogs where the focus is on French lifestyle, fashion, images, food, decor and longings. Reading these regularly helps me to indulge my own longings for whatever it is we all crave and are trying to define, attract, and manifest in our lives.

Charles Bremner – Times Online

Charles Bremner is based in Paris and is the correspondent for the Times.

 

Chocolate and Zucchini

Clotilde Dusoulier writes from Paris France and offers delicious recipes.

 

Fete et Fleur

“A place to dream” is a beautiful blog written by an American woman who lives in the United States.

 

French Accent

“An Australian who covets French things” My own humble offerings as I attempt to attract the beauty and inspiration of the French lifestyle to my own life on the far side of the globe in Australia ~ Susan Bentley

 

French Life – Expat France

“Living in France and daily life for a UK expat in the French blog” offers no name but is from a UK family of four.

 

French Word-A-Day

“Serving you a thrice-weekly slice of French life” Kristin Espinasse is an American living in the French Riviera and delivers this beautifully crafted blog.

 

Frogblog

American Pamela Poole lives in Paris and writes about her experiences.

 

Helena Frith Powell

Author of “Two Lipsticks and a Lover” Helena Frith Powell is a UK writer who lived in France with her family for a while but now lives in Abu Dhabi while continuing to write her blog and articles for magazines.

 

La Belette Rouge

Written by an American woman who lives in Los Angeles and is a self-confessed Francophile.

 

Laura’s French Language Blog

Laura K. Lawless lives in France and offers tips and language advice.

 

Life in Paris

Offers no name but is a “starving Englishman artist” and offers many photos of Paris.

 

One Thing in a French Day

“A small slice of a Frenchwoman’s day in France and in French” is anonymous and offers audio, but is not a well set out page. But if you subscribe to it in a reader then you will not see the website but still receive the information.

 

Paris Breakfasts

“I paint Paris dreams…” Carol Gillott is based in New York and offers this beautiful blog with regular watercolour paintings of French images.

 

Petite Anglais

Catherine Sanderson is a UK writer who moved to France some time ago and documented her life there online and is now a well-known author of the book of the same name. This is the first blog of this type that I began reading some years ago and I have continued to read with interest and amusement.

 

Spirit of Paris

“Photographies de Paris” is anonymous but offers photographic images of Paris.

 

The French Journal

“A site for Francophiles. Notes on French culture, history, geography, food, wine, travel, and more” This blog is by an American man who lives in Boston.

 

Tongue in Cheek

“A collection of French antiques, stories, and daily happenings while living in France.” Corey Amaro is an American who lives in France with her French husband.

 

You can find more French blogs at the 10 best French blogs for Francophiles and French blogs offered by About.com.

1 comment January 13, 2009
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Jean de Florette

This week’s ‘French fix’ was the viewing of two French movies at home. Jean de Florette and the sequel Manon des Sources starring Gerard Depardieu and Daniel Auteuil were made in 1986, by the filmmaker Claude Berri. Both movies are in French with subtitles.

These movies tell the story set in a quaint French village about some local farmers who sabotage the water flow from natural springs that supply the village water.

The hunchback, Jean de Florette inherits an old stone farm house and attempts to set up a new life for himself, his wife, and young beautiful daughter Manon, played by Emmanuelle Beart. The scheming farmer who lives next door effectively undermines all the hardworking attempts made by Jean, as he tries to set up a rabbit farm.

Tragedy unfolds over the course of their lives and the sequel follows the daughter Manon as she scampers wild with her goats amongst the rocky hillside. There is an ultimate conclusion but it is not a happy one.

These movies did not do much to satisfy my French longings apart from offering some immersion in the French language.

Add a comment January 2, 2009
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