Tag Archives: French

New Caledonia, 2014

In the approaching winter of 2014, my husband’s family including assorted partners and children, flew to Noumea for a week. We stayed at the Hilton Hotel where our balcony overlooked the pool, Anse Vata beach and Canary Island.

The weather was not the beach weather we had hoped for, being rain with sunny periods. Definitely not swimming weather. Although that didn’t stop me trying, resulting in a very short lived dip in the cold pool, before it started raining again.

We made the most of it anyway and the holiday became all about eating instead. And what a great place for this to occur- in French food heaven. There were the decadent coffee shops, the fantastic French bakeries with sticks of bread and fancy cakes; and our favourite, the French supermarkets with Cote D Or, French wine and yummy carbonara chips. All delicious.

My husband and I also managed to escape for a date night in a French restaurant called Astrolabe in the next bay for a lovely traditional three course dinner. And I had the best Carbonara pasta with raw egg that I have ever had in an Italian restaurant in the hotel complex.

On our first day, we caught the bus to the city market. The bus trip was entertainment enough for our one a half-year-old daughter, but she was very excited by the local musicians playing when we got there too and danced up a storm.

The market overlooked the boats of Port Moselle and had lots of fruit and vegetables for the locals, plus colourful souvenirs for the tourists.

The following day, we caught the bus all the way into town to Coconut Trees square, which funnily enough had lots of coconut trees; and a gazebo. I found a Mango shop amongst all the expensive French clothing shops and we found some French children’s books for our daughter. We also saw the old coach house, Moselle Bay and many colourful murals.

We took a walk along Promenade Roger Laroque to Lemon beach- the beach next to ours. The promenade also had a train running along it that my daughter enjoyed along with the statue of Marilyn Monroe outside the Rock café once we go to the beach.

One day, we dragged the whole family to the Aquarium of the Lagoons to see the coral, fish and related sea creatures. My daughter liked the hands on kid’s section and I liked the porthole windows that you could see luminescent jellyfish through.

On our last day, we took a walk up the hill to Rte Due Ouen Toro for a view over the island and all the beaches we had visited. On the way back we found a large park with lots of swings and dolphin bins. It was heaven for the kids and I’m sure they wished we had found it earlier.

Related posts: Fiji 2008, It’s a South Pacific Thing

Singapore, 2013: Part 2

My favourite sightseeing part of the trip to Singapore with my daughter was Gardens by the Bay. Due to smog from fires in Indonesia it was advised that my friend Cynthia and I stay inside with our daughters, but seeing as Gardens by the Bay is an indoor Botanical Gardens, this was not a problem.

The waterfall in the Cloud Forest Dome was fantastic and such fun to be able to walk up to, behind and above. There were many beautiful orchids, lots of colourful miniature hot air balloons and bridges in the sky to cross.

Marina Bay Sands and the Super Trees were mostly clouded by the smog, but inside the air was clear and the colours of the vegetation were bright. There were Boab trees, turtle statues, old olive trees and even windmills. I borrowed Cynthia’s ergo carrier so my daughter could have a nap while we wandered through the lovely Mediterranean garden.

The gift shop was almost as good as the gardens themselves. I left with a pair of dragonfly earrings and a clever cup that changed colours when you poured hot water in it as a gift from Cynthia.

The next day, the air quality was still bad, so I took my daughter on a quick trip to the indoor MINT toy museum. I think I enjoyed seeing Astro boy, Punch & Judy and Tin Tin paraphernalia more than she did.

That night, Cynthia and I left the girls with her husband Tony and their helper Rosie to hit Little India for a French dinner. After some good wine and great company, I almost forgot that we had kids and it was just like old times.

On our last day we went to the smick and modern Shoppes at Marina Bay Sands. There was an indoor skating rink, gorgeous window displays and an indoor canal that you could take a gondola on under a bridge. The highlight was Cynthia’s favourite ice cream/chocolate shop Au Chocolat and the ingenious water fountain that dropped from the ceiling to fill the canal.

Singapore to see a good friend had been the perfect first trip to test the waters of travelling alone with the little one and I was so glad that I had come.

Related posts: Singapore, 2013: Part 1Singapore, 2012: Old vs NewSingapore, 2012: Part 1Indonesia and Singapore, 1994England, Singapore and Malaysia, 1998It’s an Asia Thing

Marlborough to Akaroa, 2012

Before long, it was time to bid farewell to our New Zealand Sri Lankan family and catch the ferry back to Picton with no view of the Marlborough Sounds once again and a shared baby’s room with no private cabins. We didn’t realise just how spoilt we had been on our previous trip.

My husband and I decided to console ourselves with a rare couple of hours off from the newborn to sample some of the local Marlborough wines near the holiday park we were staying on river in Blenheim.

We started at Lawson’s Dry Hills, who suggested we visit a lovely new winery that I now see popping up in Australian bottle shops everywhere. Wither Hills had an undoubtedly modern cellar door and with old barrels for added character and a view of the vines to the hills.

The next day, we drove the East Coast to Kaikoura to see the seals. We didn’t have to look far as there was one lying in the car park in the sun when we arrived. We walked out onto the rocks and found a few bathing in and out of the beautiful healthy sea weedy water.

That night we stayed at Hamner Springs, a spa town in the hills. We visited the big water park with thermal springs the next day and soaked in the pine forest of the town.

Our final stop was Akaroa, one hour from Christchurch, for New Year’s Eve. Akaroa was a pretty little French inspired town and was my favourite place on the trip.

We stayed in a holiday park overlooking the town which had a comfy lounge building with TV. We walked down the hill into the town and discovered that a cruise ship had invaded for the day.

The French influence could be seen in the French bakeries, lovely heritage buildings and French signage that was dotted around the town. I bought some lovely earrings in a small gift shop and we walked out to the pier on harbour.

On New Year’s Eve we walked a little further to the lighthouse and had a yummy local seafood platter lunch. We were back in the van in time to see the lovely sunset. Our little family of three were all sleeping well before midnight, so tuckered out that not even fireworks hitting the van at midnight woke us up.

By the end of the trip, we had gotten used to our comfy little portable home and were sad to drop the campervan off in Christchurch before we boarded our plane home on New Years Day. New Zealand had turned out to be much more beautiful than I had imagined and I was so glad we had come.

Related posts: West Coast to Wellington, 2012, Queenstown to Fox Glacier, 2012, New Zealand, 2004

It’s a French thing

This month is the French Film Festival in Sydney.

I endeavor to attend at least one film at this festival each year. I like the way that French films weave a story beneath a story between many characters that are connected in surprising ways; and the fact that they don’t sugar coat an ending.

I am a fan of the beautiful Audrey Tautou, particularly in the comedy Priceless and The Spanish Apartment and the talented Alice Taglioni as seen in Cash and Paris- Manhattan. I also like the setting in France of places I may or may not have been.

This year I am looking forward to watching Barbeque, The Last Diamond and Sex, Love and Therapy.

Paris is also one of my favourite cities in the world and I have been known to become obsessed with all things French.

I went to a French restaurant last month, own a cliché miniature Eiffel Tower (hey- it was the only souvenir I could afford and fit in my back pack, and I love it- ok?) and dream- perhaps naively- of living in a French Château for a month or more.

I drink my tea out of my French mug set, enjoy a long French style lunch with French wine and one of my best friends is French (of course, that’s not the only reason we are friends Frenchie!).

I like the sound of the French language, polite French people (yes you can find some of these in Paris despite popular opinion) and am currently toting a Paris handbag purchased in the city itself.

I watch French cooking shows, enjoy French supermarkets and would love to go to the Cannes Film Festival one May.

I have the entire OPI French collection- La Collection De France, enjoy eating crème brulee and my current blog profile picture is of me in Paris.

I have Eiffel Tower earrings, like reading books set in France and have a box of a lady at the Paris opera house which was the inspiration for my wedding dress.

If I knew anything about home decorating, I’m sure my place would be fitted out and filled with all things French country.

I have seen the view from the Eiffel Tower, walked along the Champs Elysee and lunched in Place des Voges.

I have seen the magnificent gardens of Versailles, walked along the Promenade des Anglais in Nice and tasted wine in Bordeaux.

But still I hunger for more.

I want to see the canals of Colmar or Annecy, stroll around a castle at Mont Saint- Michel or in the Loire Valley and sip Champagne in Champagne.

I want to see the French quarter in New Orleans, walk around Montreal in French Canada and drink from coconuts in Bora Bora in French Polynesia.

Who’s with me?

Related posts: Europe, 2003, France, 1997, Part 2: The South of France, France, 1997, Part 1: Paris, O-P-I don’t mind if I do, TV replays and Movie Marathons

Europe, 2006

When he was in high school, my husband-to-be (HTB) did a rotary exchange where he spent a year in Belgium. He lived with 3 host families over the course of the year, spending the majority of the time with the Renson family in the French speaking town of Dolembreux.

It was to this small town that we travelled next to visit the families and catch up with my HTB’s other friends while we were there. We stayed with the Renson family who lived in an old converted farmhouse. The children- Bill, Ben and Isabelle- had long since moved out and started their own families, but the dog (who only understood African dialect and French commands as she was an import from the Congo) remained.

We went to the closest city, Liege, where my HTB had attended school. The city monument was an unusual water fountain of sorts and the main square was awash with blooming flowers. I was introduced to the world of “real” chocolate at the Galler chocolate factory and the eating of much Cote’ D ‘Or, readily available in supermarkets here, but not in Australia.

One night, we went to a soccer game at Liege stadium. It was very cold, but the yummy thrice fried frites and waffles with added sugar lumps sure warmed us up!

Another night, we went to the pub where my HTB had spent many hours with other rotary exchange students and a restaurant owned by a well-known local friend of his, who took us to a night club where he had to knock on a door with a peephole for us to be let in.

I also discovered the convenience of Belgium, in that being such a small land locked country, it was close to many other European countries.

We went on a day trip to Luxembourg City and marvelled at the Grand Palace. The Grund (old city) was amazing and unlike anything I had ever seen before. From the top it looked like a little fairy tale village that you could walk down into and explore. We also had a nice lunch in a restaurant in the main square with the added company of Flo, one of my HTB’s friends who now worked in the city.

Another day trip took us to Aachen in Germany. We took in the gothic style cathedral, amusing fountains and quirky shops. We also had a nice lunch in a restaurant in the main square with added German steins.

We went on an overnight trip to The Netherlands to visit one of my HTB’s friends Jacqui and her husband. They picked us up in a BMW which had self-park and took us to Williamsted fishing village for dinner. The next day, we all went to Zeeland to see the dyke at Neeltje Jan (Waterland) where we enjoyed being kids for the day. There were seals, a fabulous water playground, sand sculptures and a windy hurricane tunnel.

Related posts: England, 2006

Degustation Delights

In 2011, my husband and I went through a spell of being addicted to degustation menu’s at Sydney’s top restaurants, always with matched wines of course. It became a bit of a problem when after a year of visiting a different restaurant each month, we became blasé, non-appreciative and had to cut ourselves off. Now we try to only go for special occasions.

My favourite restaurant that sticks in my memory is Oscillate Wildly in Newtown. We went on the recommendation of a friend and were not disappointed. The menu is seasonal, so I can’t recount any of the dishes here, but the place was what made the degustation. The restaurant was small with only a few tables available which lent to the neighbourhood feel. I even remember the couple who arrived late as the babysitter was late, the lesbian couple and the younger couple who left after a couple of courses- I don’t think they quite knew what they were getting into!

My husband’s favourite is Est in the city which we have now been to a few times. The comfortable surroundings and little touches, such as the champagne cart coming around upon arrival, make you feel special. The menu features Australian food with French precision such as the cocoa crusted venison saddle with beetroot, caramelised witlof, pickled blueberries and red leaves.

At the time, Marquee in Surry Hills was the top degustation restaurant. So we went to try the French food with an Australian twist. They serve Kangaroo and Redgate Farm Quail with matched wines from Australia to Spain. I always enjoy tasting the matched wines from different countries and imagining the countryside that the wine came from, or having an Australian wine from a winery that we have been to and remembering it.

Our very first degustation was at Coast in Darling Harbour, so of course we were blown away and returned on numerous occasions for special occasions with friends. It featured lovely décor, a mostly seafood menu including spaghetti with vongole, white wine, chilli and pangrattato, and is now closed.

We went to a French restaurant called Apres a couple of times, which we enjoyed for similar reasons to Oscillate Wildly. It was a neighbourhood restaurant in Potts Point with a nice atmosphere and friendly staff which my husband liked to impress with his French. It had great croquettes, lovely duck and then it closed.

Assiette, another French restaurant in the area that we went to featured dishes such as the white asparagus barigoule with spanner crab, golden beetroot and saffron matched with a 2007 Catrala Savignon Blanc from the Casablanca Valley in Chile. It is now closed.

Becasse in the city, featured delights such as shaved organic Wagyu beef with white asparagus, mushroom and chilled consommé matched with 2009 Spinifex “Luxe”, Barossa Valley, before it closed.

When we went to Bilson’s, the French restaurant that was at the Raddison Blu in the city, my husband found a stone in mushroom starter. Perhaps that’s why it is now also closed.

Maybe the fact that most of the restaurants that we went to degustation’s at in 2011 are now closed is reflective of the fact that fine dining restaurants are struggling to survive in Sydney? Perhaps people are just sick of French food? Or maybe the younger generation don’t want long degustation’s and tasting menu’s are the way forward?

Related posts: Cocktail Hour in SydneytownGet your groove on, What’s your handicap?, The Seven Year Itch, By special request, Friendship: Great Expectations?, Home is where you make it, I first started writing