Posts tagged ‘lifestyle ‘

Every day in Tuscany

I wish I wrote like Frances Mayes. More than that; I wish I lived like Frances Mayes – Every Day in Tuscany.

Her ability to observe and describe is unmatched amongst current authors, I think. The way she crafts her sentences, surprising us with the unpredictability of passage. She is a Wordsmith and obviously honours and delights in the images she conjures.

The art, the food, the lifestyle, the landscape, the produce, the community, the history, the language, the trendy Italian flavours of Italian life, are all stamped onto her pages like a three-dimensional collage. It is the now-popular craft-art of scrapbooking minus the glue and scissors.

Her quest for beauty I share. While she succeeds and excels, I fail. The richness of the Italian culture lies to extreme of the sparse Australian life that is mine. I search but cannot find any stone-built monasteries from the 15th Century. There is a notable lack of Renaissance art around me. Deciduous trees dripping harvests of nuts and fruit do not fare well in the Aussie bush. Aussie slang spoken between thin closed unmoving lips is spare with words and emotion, by comparison to the dramatic, curvaceous, embellished opera of the mere Italian “hello”.

Reading Frances Mayes books make me feel like a starving person reading a cook book. Yet to not seem ungrateful for my lot in life; I am far from starving and can read. I am keenly aware of my lucky rich Western educated life in a free land.

Two years ago I was in Italy and did not like what I saw. Fully expecting to love it, I did not. My stay was brief and fleeting. As a passing tourist I saw multitudes of art – some flaking some not. I was often dwarfed inside cathedrals, as I had hoped. I passed by the long queue of people waiting to go inside The Dome in Florence. I saw David – whose hands are too big Michelangelo! I walked around Rome. I know why people there drive mopeds – it is because there is no physical space left to park another car. My heart sank when seeing more and more graffiti, another grey rumpled form of a homeless person lying in the town park, the rubbish strewn everywhere. The Italians appeared to have stepped straight from a catwalk in Milan, into their shiny sports car, then out into a street full of cigarette butts. They live in an ashtray. It was Summer and each day was smog-filled; not one clear day despite the cloudless skies.

Sure I loved Venice. And Burano – is it even real or did I dream it? Who would not love the Isle of Capri? And Sorrento? Assisi? Florence – beautiful Firenze? I have not one bad photo from this trip. The camera lies obviously. Italy was overcrowded everywhere and lost to the hordes of passing onlookers. Queuing for bliss became the appropriate title for my unedited travel diary. Please note that my diary is a record only and not any attempt at creative writing.

Frances Mayes Italy and my Italy are at odds. We cannot compare the experience at all because hers is deep and all-encompassing, while mine was shallow and fleeting. She lives there, I visited. I envy her, that is certain.

She talks about falling in love with a place, or a thing, or a pursuit, such as Art. I understand this and share this idea completely. Art, music, and place have the power to speak to our soul and fill us with…..Love.

I fell in love in France; not Italy. It happened in St. Paul de Vence. This small medieval hill town near Nice is now a thriving artists community and a tourist magnet. We wandered in light rain along cobblestone walkways, too narrow to be streets, looking at art. Who wouldn’t fall for this place? By the time I sat in the town square in Beaune, between Lyon and Paris, I was cocooned and floating in a crystal bubble of LOVE. I floated and smiled like an idiot. I felt at home for the first time in my life. I had found my spiritual home. But not because of the food, language, culture, history or art. Nor because my heart had longed to go to France. Something deeper. Perhaps genetically transferred ancestral cell-memory? Life destiny calling me? Wish fulfilment? Perhaps just my vivid imagination.

Back home in Australia, Frances Mayes reminds me of my heart-ache; of my parallel-life in France. The view from my window across the roof tops towards the church spire in the town somehow reminds me of Nice. There really is no similarity.

Yet my sensible self reminds me of the crowds, the traffic, and the reality-check of what daily life in Europe in the 21st Century is in actuality. Frances, please cast your observant eye towards downtown Rome, or Naples. Can you edit out the grime?

Pursuing a life of “beauty” in the harsh Australian environment and lifestyle is a challenge. But I must try harder. This is my real home and I must face the fact that life in France, for me, is not for this lifetime. My task is to focus, and bring into my days, the art, language, music, literature, good food, and beauty that I crave and miss.


1 comment June 8, 2010

Who’ll come a-waltzing with me?

This Australia Day I found myself sitting by a billabong, opening my tucker bag, being nourished by the real Australian landscape. It was a warm sunny day in the country. The grassy hills have yellowed from the summer sun and the sky was an unblemished blue. The breeze stirred the eucalyptus scent from the ‘coolibah’ trees, where birds dozed in the quiet of midday. Now and then a Kookaburra would snicker or a Corella would squawk.

I was surprised no other people had decided to picnic here today.

This new life in the country is rejuvenating my soul. The wide open spaces, free of ugly man-made structures, refreshes my tired eyes. The wind on the breeze carries no sounds of traffic. Queues of impatient people waiting for service have vanished and there is time to chat and ponder.

There is space for animals: koalas, kangaroos, wallabies, rabbits, birds, birds, and more birds. Marine life too is visible and in the short time I have been here I’ve seen seals, dolphins, stingrays, fish – and these have all been sighted from the land. (Not here at the billabong but along the nearby coast).

I feel more Australian now than even before in my 50 years of life here. That is quite impressive and inexplicable to me. While my heart aches for some imagined bliss in the south of France, perhaps the serenity I seek can be found here in the south west corner of Victoria. If only more people spoke French.

Add a comment January 27, 2010

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


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

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.



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

1 comment January 13, 2009

France at last

Me on ferry on The Channel 2008

 As an Australian with only one vague family connection with France this growing “homesickness” that I had been feeling for years was inexplicable. My only words of French were as a high school student. My only visit to a French community was to New Caledonia for 8 days in 1974 with my French class. And yet the older I got the stronger this yearning to go to France became. I know of others who feel this same strange pull towards France.

So we landed at Calais then immediately drove to Amsterdam and out of France. Our bus tour was to take us to Germany, Switzerland, Austria and Italy before we were scheduled to visit France. A fantastic trip for sure but too fast to soak in the atmosphere. I was merely a tourist; one of thousands; following the tourist trail like mindless sheep in a production line. Nevertheless it was still fantastic.


We arrive in France via Nice and stay on the Cote d”Azur for 2 nights; then to Lyon and Paris. We stopped at the medieval hilltop town of Saint Paul de Vence and I begin to fall in love. By the time I am in Beaune I am cocooned in a veil of bliss; I feel like I have fallen in love. The yearning is fulfilled and the Frenchness has penetrated my soul leaving me smiling with joy. What is this? How can it be? C’est quoi exactement? In Nice I see the modern library building modeled to represent a human head and understand and appreciate the design immediately. Other cultures would think of the idea but only the French would build it. In Paris I go to the cabaret and laugh until I cry at the antics of a comedian acrobat. I have not laughed like this for perhaps 30 years. I get their humour. I agree with their reluctance to speak English because French is a beautiful language so why should they be expected to speak English in their own land? I attempt my high school French wholeheartedly and make no apologies for my halting mistakes. At least I try and realise I would quickly pick it up were I to stay longer. If only I could stay longer!


Me at Le Louvre in Paris 2008

Me at Le Louvre in Paris 2008

We visit Le Louvre, Versailles, and Le Tour Eiffel but too soon we leave France and return to London and then Australia. Was it a dream? I have not experienced Paris at all. I will have to return. But I realise I won’t be back there again for a long time; if ever. So my plan is to bring something of France, however small, into my life here in Australia. This blog and my accociated wiki are to be the vehicles for that quest.




Add a comment October 30, 2008






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