Friday, February 25, 2011

23 days until spring

Well and truly into 2011, I am reflecting on the past few months and I realise just how far I have come. Last night a friend from my course had drinks at her apartment and after spending a really fun time with her and her friends, I realised just how much French I have learnt. I was able to contribute to and understand the majority of conversation - with the exception of some very French slang jokes which were later explained to me in simple broken down French. It was a really rewarding feeling.

This morning I spoke to my dearest Elly D'Melly, my greatest and longest friend at home. She reminded me just how important it is to keep writing about my experiences. Life is short and if not recalled now, they never will be and not only will I forget what I have done but my friends and family may forget about me and that I would hate!

It is Friday night, and I am home with a red wine on my last few days of holidays before I go back to the madness. I have spent the entire day shopping in Montmartre under the famous Sacre Coeur for fabric for the collection that I will begin to design and make. It's pacing through the streets in a rush and taking the shortcut alley ways to avoid the tourists and crowds that that remind me that I have taken more than a couple of baby steps forward. I almost start to feel like an overused rag around this area as I am there so often picking up bits and pieces for college and recognizing the same people. Familiarity is a good thing in Paris. It's almost special if someone remembers your face. You know you have done something right!

I have been on holidays for the last two weeks (winter break). Like most students, I took one week off and during the other I worked on progressing my collection a little - highly recommended by the teachers. For the first five days of my holidays I went to Milano to visit my two girlfriends now living, working and becoming very bellissimo (I think I should stick to French). It was a great feeling, leaving Paris on my last day and arriving in Milan 1h and 15mins later. I arrived and the girls took me straight out for some solid pizza boy food. We ate countless pizzas, caught up on a whole year of stories, and during the weekend we went to their fresh food markets, had a picnic lunch in the SUN, saw The Last Supper and by the last day, I felt very spoilt. I returned to Paris and after a minute I left again! This time it was to Normandy to spend the last four days of my first week of holidays with Franny - a dear friend of mine who has recently returned to her home town Caen after five years of living in Brisbane, Australia. We walked along the beach (in our jackets and scarves), making the most of the temperamental weather (with which I still have trouble). We cooked, drank, and exchanged many stories. Both trips were mini holidays - just perfect. They were just what I needed to rejuvenate me for the next four intensive months of our final collections and presentations.

I leave you with this photo I took from our balcony in Paris as the sun was setting. I just think how lucky I am every time I look at this photo, or better still, when I stand on our balcony!

Reporting shortly with a few special photos over my Christmas and New Year festivities - celebrated with an army of friends and family travellers !

Je vous embrasse très fort,
Maria xx

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Chez George

It's 3am Christmas eve and I just arrived home from another surprising night at Chez George - a top notch, quintessentially French wine bar in the 6th arrondissement with a crowd mixture (tonight) of Australians, Americans and of course French. Suddenly this week I discovered that my good friends from the States who I met in Greece over the summer, just arrived in Paris along with my grade 9/10 drama teacher and daughter and as planned, my uncle, cousin and friend are all here for Christmas and a holiday. We all gathered tonight at Chez George along with some friends and locals and by 11pm the underground level was packed full and extremely jolly. The crowd danced on bench-tops holding their glasses of wine and moving to old, originals and French classics such as Eidith Piaf to Little Richard. A great night to share a bottle of their top house red with friends and release some of the lead up pre-Christmas preparation stress.

No pictures to attach except a YouTube link of the beautiful Edith Piaf singing 'Non, je ne regrette rien'. Try best to imagine an underground cave, crowded with people and chanting the lyrics with such dignity and joy one day before Christmas.
Not only did I manage to extend my friendship list tonight but I experienced a very enjoyable night before Christmas that I will remember when I'm old and wrinkly, I'm sure.
French table tops, friends - new and old, wine - red and white, Dec 23rd - Paris 2010.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Je m'appelle Maria

Ready for take off out of Saint Hilaire. A goodbye tour gift through the mountains
by my aupair family dad whom I only found out, started flying planes in the July before I left!

I have started and stopped writing this long awaited blog post too many times and after six months of discovering, travelling, learning more about myself than I ever have in my life, and blindlessly searching for multiple answers, I decided it was time to share a few things with those at the other end.

The plat form I jumped from when hang-gliding
on my last week before leaving Saint-Hilaire.
Mum was informed after I glided!

Un petite survol (a little overview):

I look back to early July and it seems such a long time ago that I left Saint Hilaire. An experience, well worth it and only know after just passing a weekend back in Saint Hilaire, (surprising the kids for their birthday and catching up with my neighbours and some very special friends), I can see now how much I have made a difference in their family and how much I have grown in those six months. The people I met, places I went to, and experiences I shared in Saint Hilaire were truly rewarding and taught me so many wonderful things about life that only now I can really see and appreciate.

The dress I made for Amandine, (the little girl I use to nanny for),
for a wedding the family were invited to in Portugal in August.

I took a three week holiday to Athens and the Greek Islands after aupairing in early July. In Greece I was able to surround myself with familiar faces, family and places - such a satisfying holiday of sun, water, sleep, fat Greek kebabs and no children. It was perfect in every way. Cruising around the island of Syros on the back of my cousin's scooter and watching the sun set over the Mediterranean sea was magic. I can really understand why the Europeans are so proud and love their island life so much.

Maria’s daily activities in Syros:

Waking without an alarm, breakfast bare-foot at the fig tree in the backyard, meeting locals and friends for taverna lunch and dinners, going for runs along the edge of the island to watch the sunset daily and gin and tonic cocktails served to us whilst busily focusing on building a deep tan on the water's edge. After a strong hit of all things beginning with 'f' - family, familiarity, food and frappes, I was ready for Paris ... well, I thought so!

A collection of my favourite photos that hold really
strong memories of my holiday in Greece

Paris, early August:

I watched the leaves dance from their branches, eager to drop as each day grew further away from summer. I walked just about everywhere - went often to ‘Paris plage’ (Paris’s fake beach along the Seine over the summer period, for those not able to make it to the beach!), met with friends of friends, continued with another short French course and tried my best to understand and get my head around my new and overwhelming city.

Lou. A pique-nique in jardin du Luxembourg

Without Lou (my dear Parisian pineapple friend) Paris would have not been the same for me. I lived above her family's apartment in a chambre de bonne with a view of the Eiffel Tower from my pillow for the months of August until October. Never once have I felt left out of Lou's family. From wine lessons and scooter rides with Bruno (Lou's dad) to dinner parties and dance-offs with Lou, her sister and friends, to numerous French lessons with everyone, to weekends at their family and friends' country houses, and to emotional support when everything seemed too much. I enjoy so much being with Lou's family as they remind me so much of mine!

September, at Lou's family coutry house one weekend 45 minutes from Paris

Finally, early October came and as planned, I began Mod'Art International, Creation de Mode. Beginning school was exciting but scary at the same time, mostly not knowing what to expect of the level and the language. I was under the impression that half of the lessons would be taught in French but in fact they informed me that this would not be so. From the day we began it has been non-stop - 9am till 8pm Monday-Wednesday, Thursday I have just picked up more French and Friday I have French again and computers from 1-8pm. The level of work is higher, the teachers have no sympathy if you haven't reached the deadline, or simply if you're late due to a Metro problem - everyone is far more opinionated and the competition is mind blowing! From Brisbane to Paris, there was always going to be a big difference but I wasn't sure how great. I am like a tiny fish again in a gigantic bowl. I found it very difficult the first two months, trying firstly to understand the task and then achieving it to a satisfactory level. Entering into third year has been hard as all the students know the system, familiar with the machines, printers and project expectations, and they were ready to work hard. I had to translate, learn all these skills, school's ways, and make friends at the same time. It was a real challenge and many times I have felt incapable. I am still not completely comfortable but I am learning a lot, have submitted some assignmetns, had some feedback and made some friends who have given me a lot of insight to it all.
During the first month of beginning my course, Lou and I found an apartment to move into in that was just perfect. Close to Belleville (Asian quarter) and between Montemarte and my college, the apartment is above many bars, restaurants and has a balcony with a view of all of Paris and a lot of light. Level five is not easy - especially when moving and elevators weren't designed at the time our block was built! Nevertheless, the space is everything I could wish for and more! We are very lucky and are now just personalising it to make it ours!

The view of Paris from our balcony. The tiny vertical triangle towards the back is Le Tour Eiffel!

For my first assignment we focused on the little black dress.
We had to be inspired by the original and then create a modern version

The little black chemise. Lou wears a Maria LBD

An example of an image we are given in class and in one day
are expected to make the perfect toile ready to sew it
up in wool; the day after we are given it we have it for patternmaking.
Without books - just an image !

After more than one year of not having seen my parents, they arrived yesterday in Paris. Besides my arriving late to meet them, because of a Metro hiccup, and perhaps a tad of my super time management skills, we finally found each other in Gare de Nord and it was better than anything I could have imagined! Just seeing their faces and sharing long lasting hugs and multiple kisses was so overwhelming. I felt so reassured, so content, so happy and so understood all at the same time. I think I had cried too much over the last difficult months that I had no more tears left. I just couldn’t stop smiling. We were like big kids with too many stories and not knowing where to begin!

With two weeks of holidays approaching, and my family, friends, uncle and cousin arriving this week, I am more then certain I am going to have a very, very special Christmas.
After a long, colourful year, I couldn't ask for anything more than my special people here with me celebrating Christmas. I just wish my big, hairy brother could join too... but with Skype anything is possible.

My favourite flame-tree photo from home that I took just before leaving last November.
This is a real Christmas tree

To all my family and friends at home,
Joyeux Noel!
Sending all my love from Paris always,


Friday, June 18, 2010


I sit in the same position and at the same table as I did when I wrote my first blog post on my arrival to Saint Hilaire du Touvet. The table hasn’t changed… (maybe a little grubbier since I’ve been here), but as I look through the glass doors ahead of me, everything I see has changed. The dark, heavy clouds and constant drizzle of rain block my vision a little bit. I can faintly see the mountains in the distance – they are no longer white. I can finally see our neighbour's roof and the colour of the tiles on our back terrace. Our grass is green and overgrown, but the red tulips that are unevenly spread throughout the grass make up for it. Nearly five months have passed and much like my experience here, every day's outlook changes; not one day is the same as the last.

Not only is spring really here, but une fête de la musique begins this weekend in celebration of the first day of summer. I am imagining a large gathering of mountain people dancing naked around a giant, communal stone BBQ grasping their trumpets in one hand and a gypsy child in the other. As the crowd chants songs of rejoice, free daisy chains are being passed around.

I will go with my harmonica in one pocket and my pocketknife in the other.

Noe under the summer sun learning how to 'picaboo!'

Saturday, June 12, 2010


L'image has no purpose other than to distract you from concentrating on the message below which details my absence for the last few months ! Just focus on the macaroon and everything will be OK.

Je pense qu'il est une bonne heure à actualiser mon blog et expliquer à mes amies et ma famille quoi j’ai fait sur ce montagne pour les derniere mois…
C'est pas bien que j’ai mis rien pour tel un longtemps!
En fait, je n'excuse pas!
Je continue mes jours à Saint Hilaire du Touvet avec les enfants mais je suis presque finis.
Je dit au revoir en quatre semaines. C'est incroyable !
Donc, on y va avec mes découvertes et vecus!

All you need to think about is missing out on a bite of this delicious, mouth frothing macaroon.

Monday, March 22, 2010


“Un ananas s’il vous plaît”.

Il a commencé comme ça!

Last weekend - Paris (a treat gift from the parents of my crazy Parisian friend, Lou Lou). Lou of course had no idea about our cheeky plan to surprise her with my visit ! I travelled to Paris by TGV - taking exactly 3 hours and 10 minutes from Grenoble. On arrival, I took the metro direct to Lou's work where I had arranged to surprise her. I was close to reaching her work when I suddenly realized I was empty handed! I could not possibly surprise her without jumping from behind something, so I desperately searched for a florist hoping to find a large colourful bunch of flowers. I found no florist. Isn't it always the way? When you are looking for something you can never bloody find it. Instead I crossed the path of a little man outside the metro station selling a selection of no more then four fruits on a petite, rustic table. He looked so hopeful as I stared at his pineapple for a very long time. I pictured my appearance for a moment – me holding the pineapple in replacement of the flowers. I liked this idea and so I bought the pineapple and thought it would be way cooler anyway to be sprung from a pineapple then a bunch of inedible flowers. The little man was overly thankful - so thankful that it made me think he found the pineapple! You can imagine how the surprise unfolded. A knock, an answer, a pineapple, some hideous sunglasses I found in my bag, a thousand laughs and very few words. We headed straight for the café below Lou's work and in total excitement we shared our many stories, ideas and plans over a delicious cold beer.

The initial feeling of excitement didn’t fade all weekend. It felt unreal to be visiting such a beautiful city for the weekend and being welcomed by Lou’s beautiful family made me feel so far from feeling like a tourist! A dinner party for Bruno (Lou’s father) was planned for Friday night. The fact that Bruno is the father of three daughters means that the company of women always tends to outweigh that of men. You could tell Bruno doesn’t complain about this, particularly when it comes to present opening on his birthday. He received fragile, sentimental gifts such as pots of flowers, soaps, books, his very own teapot for one and a weekend away of pampering. He was in heaven! We ate delicious food prepared by Aude (Lou’s mum), drank beaucoup de vin rouge and I don’t think I paused from smiling all night.

Samedi et dimanche événements:

Jumping from fabric market to fabric market under Sacre Coeur, Montmartre.

Strong morning coffees and surprise mouthfuls of freshly cut pineapple.

A picnic in Luxembourg gardens featuring a lot of exciting people watching.

Cutting each other’s hair in Lou’s apartment with domestic scissors she had found that struggled to cut sticky tape.

Passionate singing into baguettes along to old French classic songs I mumbled the words to.

A walking English-to-French vocabulary list following me.

Walking the streets, following our noses into teashops, boulangeries, soap boutiques and antique shops.

A long description of each building, street and shop from my personal tour guide and know-it-all - Lou Lou.

Running in the rain, laughing from bar to bar along St Germain des Pres.

Afternoon cups of teas on Lou’s friends house boat that happens to be situated on the Seine in front of the Eiffel Tower (I don’t think I could close my jaw the entire time).

Cheese platters and fruit salads in Le Marais.

I couldn’t have imagined a more inspirational weekend away. It felt great to be around familiar faces in a busy city and it gave me a stronger sense of direction. Being in Paris again also made me a lot more excited for my return in a few weeks to meet my brother and his girlfriend and for my move there mid year, but for a bit longer than a weekend. Time flies by so I have to make the most of where I am and right now, I haven’t quite finished yet with the mountains!