Tag Archives: French

Switching to island time… in Noumea

Switch your mental clock to island time and your language to French… you are in Nouvelle Caledonie, where the pace is easy, the weather is (usually) warm, and the locals are forgiving of your dodgy execution of their language.

Copyright: Louise Ralph

It’s winter here, although on our first day you wouldn’t pick it. The weather forecast is looking good for our week here, so we head off à pied along the waterfront to get our bearings.

Of course, this takes most of the day. Not because we’re directionally challenged but because (have I ever mentioned this?) EB has no off-button.

At least there are irresistible cafés and bars along the way… and this time I remember not to order milk ‘on the coast‘ with my espresso!

It’s hot, the beach at the Baie des Citrons is full of people soaking up the sun and relaxing in the postcard azure sea, and there is plenty of action out on the bay at Anse Vata near our hotel.

Copyright: Louise Ralph

New Caledonians love their water sports. No, they are fanatical about their water sports. The island is surrounded by the Barrier Reef, so there are no waves.

But there is wind for kite surfing and sailboarding.

Copyright: Louise Ralph

And stretches of ocean you just want to sink into. Or paddle on. Or play in. Or do some relaxed ocean swimming. There are at least ten swimmers stroking back and forth across the Baie des Citrons.

Copyright: Louise Ralph

If you’re not exhausted yet, there is an underwater world to explore and some island hopping to do. But that’s another story…

Everything is possible: holiday resolutions

You know the drill. You’re on holidays and the stress has melted away, leaving you feeling like anything is possible.

You’ll get back home and do those things you’ve been putting off forever.

You’ll change your life, or at least your attitude to it.

You won’t be sucked back into the stress zone. And those end of the day ‘power wine-downs’ will be a thing of the past.

You can almost hear your liver whispering ‘thank you’.

Yep, anything is possible.

Fast forward a few weeks and it’s easy to forget you’ve ever been away. The relentless pace of life sucks you in – and under.


The other day, I found myself grabbing lunch and taking it back to my desk. I stopped mid-stride.

‘I reckon you wouldn’t find a single French person eating lunch at their desk,’ I thought.

And I went back outside to find a place in the sun…

My friend posted this Seth Godin quote on faffbook recently, and it’s worth repeating (even if we are planning our next getaway!):

Maybe it’s not about big changes and Humpty-Dumpty resolutions. Maybe hanging onto that ‘holiday spirit’ is about the little things that build momentum in your life and eventually add up to the way you live.

And where you eat lunch.


Au revoir, merci France

Copyright: Louise RalphWhen we first arrived in France, I had no idea what to expect – just that I’d wanted to come here for a very long time.

I also knew the six weeks would be gone in a blink… and it has.

There have been challenges, bien sur.

Like trying to communicate with our limited grasp of the language, adjusting to those rich late-night dinners, and finding our way around France with the ever-petulant Sylvia the GPS and those sometimes-dodgy cycling directions…

But the one facing us now, after our quick stopover in Singapore, is much more scary.

Going home and stepping back into… [cue spooky music] …the Stress Zone.

We know the moment our feet get under the desk, our life will be frantic. But does it have to be?

Our quest – which may take superhuman powers – is to hold onto a little of that fabulous French attitude to life.

Like working to live, not the other way around. And taking timeout – because you don’t always have to be open, or available 24/7, or busting your way through the in-tray.

Meanwhile, we have some time to wander the streets of Tournus before our fast train to the airport. Mais oui, the streets are all but deserted. Only the boulangerie and one bar-cafe in the centre ville is openIt’s Monday, after all.

And even if that doesn’t always suit us tourists, it works for the French. And that’s the point, really.

So we’ve popped some of that approach into our bags. Now we’ve just gotta get it through customs…and home.

Copyright: Louise Ralph

Copyright: Louise Ralph

Serenity, French-style, in Tournus…

Au revoir, France. A bientot.

Lost in translation…

© Royalty-Free/CorbisOkay, before I start banging on about how utterly gorgeous Brittany is, and how breathtaking Mont-Saint-Michel is, and how gobsmacking St Malo is – clearly I have run out of superlatives – I have to tell you…

I’ve been wondering why the waiters have been looking at me quizzically when I order those double expressos avec du lait sur le côté.

It’s all in the pronunciation – and the secret is in the sneaky accent on the ‘e’ (é). Which subtly changes ‘coat’ into ‘coat-aye’.

So here I am ordering milk ‘on the coast’ (côte) instead of ‘on the side’ (côté). Tch!

Now I understand why my French teacher kept telling us to ‘hit the ending’. Learning by doing…