The Paris to Provence French Festival brings France to Melbourne once a year in a big way at Como House and Gardens in the luscious, leafy suburb of Toorak and this year I headed there with my daughter to attend the festival and celebrate her 21st birthday at the same time. What a good idea I hear you say…
So with plans to eat and drink our ‘French’ way through the weekend and meet some amazing Francophiles who were participating in the Festival, we started with a celebratory pre-flight champagne and then jumped on our flight full of anticipation.
This is a sponsored post by Webjet which means that payment has been recieved for the post and as I love and regularly use Webjet I happily recommend it to you. I’m also grateful for the gifted products from A Taste to Paris.
The Festival organisers invited you to “Visit [France] with us (no passport needed) as we transform into a whimsical French pop-up village for three days each November. Watch, touch, smell and taste all that embodies France and be immersed in a vibrant and lively French village atmosphere.”
Well this was so true… the Festival lived up to all our expectations and we certainly chomped and drank French champagne all weekend and also met many enthusiastic business owners who love France and French products. We started at the champagne courtyard with a cooling Frosé (good choice all round!) and then we headed to the Jardin bon appétit for a freshly baked baguette and continued to wander around ‘Lyon’ enjoying the displays of provincial linens, espadrilles, books and jewellery. It was in ‘Rennes’ that we chatted with Francophiles Nicole, Veronica and Lee and along ‘Les Champs Elysées’ with Corinne and Morgane. Let me now introduce them to you too…
- Nicole Ress, the owner of Walk the French Talk Tours and Learn French With Nicole language classes;
- Corinne, Morgane and Julian, the owners of gourmet French food company, A Taste of Paris; and
- Veronica and Lee, the owners and collectors behind Madame Vintage and Gigi a la Maison french vintage and enamel wear dealers.
Nicole Ress – Walk The French Talk and French with Nicole
I first met Nicole on Instagram (as you do) about 12 months ago and we have been enjoying keeping up with each others adventures via social media and the spasmodic phone call, usually the day before a major event (like a wedding or two) or when Nicole has just touched down returning to Melbourne from another trip to France. It was a pleasure to meet Nicole and interview her at the Festival and I know you will find her story interesting.
Here is a little background:
“Nicole exudes a unique passion for all things French. Her mother, Suzanne, is a Parisian born woman. Nicole shares her mother’s love of cooking, French music and fashion, and was brought up speaking French at home.
Continuing to pursue her love for all things French, Nicole went on to study French at the University of Melbourne, live in Paris and travel extensively – developing an even greater love not just for the French language, but for the culture too.
This is also clear in her professional life, where Nicole has worked with many iconic French brands including Veuve Clicquot and Laurent Perrier Champagne Houses.
After 25 years of Hotel Management and empowering young people to excel in the field of hospitality, it’s clear that Personal Concierge is the perfect description for Nicole. She knows where to find the best food, wine, shops, photo opportunities, whatever is your whim.”
What do you recall as being the best thing about growing up in a French family in Australia?
“I could have baked six cakes already, by the time you finish that story”, said mum to my brothers. Life with a French mother was filled with her culture; her love of Charles Aznavour and Mireille Mathieu, her fabulous baking and cooking, her stories of Pouce Poussin and Babar. We spoke a different language with her, and the fact that we could talk without others understanding was cool.
I am grateful to her for sharing this with us and my daughter now is bi-lingual also.
Mum had a different accent to everyone else; she dressed stylishly always with everything matching even to take us to school. My brothers were called “lipstick and perfume” as mum would leave a lipstick kiss and the smell of her Chanel No. 5. My lunch boxes were envied for her gourmet meat patties instead of Vegemite sandwiches. I learned to set a table stylishly and prepare food with flare, how to host parties and look after people graciously well before my peers.
We learnt world history, courage and tolerance as she shared how her mother saved her family of five siblings from the collaboration by the Vichy government. Mum gave us high standards for the way we treated others and the way we behaved.
Your life revolves between France and Australia with your regular walking tours in France and your French classes in Melbourne. Can you tell us what you find to be the major differences between life in France and Australia?
We are so lucky and spoiled living in Australia but when comparing life in both countries we have to consider the rich history of France, its culture, people and language. Our buildings of 100 years old are considered heritage, and built by our British ancestors. French Monuments can be 1000’s of years old constructed not by French but by Romans and Celts. France is very diverse, made up of many regions and each one has it’s own flavours, produce, colours and traditions and some even dialects. The system of identifying where a produce comes from to protect its authenticity makes French products so cherished. Everyone speaks French, not everyone speaks English particularly outside the main cities.
When we drive in Australia we can drive for hours without seeing much, whereas in the French regions, every couple of kilometres we pass through a little village with a church and usually a boulangerie (bakery) as you have’ve probably seen if you watch the Tour de France.
French life is very formal, where one says “bonjour” and “au revoir” whenever coming into contact with another person and attention is paid to the way that person is addressed. We are very relaxed in Australia addressing people on first name basis instantly and enquire about their day. There’s no “she’ll be right mate” in France!
What do you usually enjoy the most when on tour?
As most of my travellers are my french students, one of the fabulous things is watching them have a go speaking in another language. Their experience of French life is enriched in a memorable way. Another goal is sharing my passion of everything French with my guests. As their 24/7 travelling concierge, looking after them and surprising them with my spontaneity adds unexpected experiences to our program. I always say “what happens in Provence, stays in Provence”
What does a typical tour with Walk The French Talk Tour look like? Can you describe a little of what a guest could expect?
Laughter; spontaneity; bespoke; small group; history ; experiential travel. All their senses are tantalised by providing unique experiences through the region all day at a relaxed pace. From a surprise stop in a field of majestic sunflowers or meditative lavender, to a nature walk through a fabulous landscape, from a hands-on Michelin Cooking class in a working kitchen to a gentle stroll through a charming cobbled stone village purchasing local goods in french from the locals. Men and women both enjoy the hassle-free nature of travelling on Walk the French Talk Tours. All they have to do is arrive!
Do you have favourite places that you regularly return to in France? If so, we’d love to know why you love them so much.
It is too hard to narrow down favourites because I actually feel great in my skin everywhere, but I love strolling through the streets of Paris, channeling my mothers younger self, reminiscing where I used to live and discovering new corners all the while speaking french to whomever I meet.
I can’t stop myself from returning to Provence and the Côte d’Azur. In this region, the light is something you have never seen before. You can understand how the artists like Van Gogh, Cézanne, Picasso were intoxicated by this region. The people are charming, and friendly and I have made some great friends. I am hypnotised by the cicadas in summer and when I am sitting in a lavender field with the bees buzzing around me I am filled with such a sense of mindfulness and gratitude it is food for the soul. Not to mention the Rosé! It’s always Provence o’clock!
One last question, what is your favourite spread to put on toast, Australian Vegemite or Nutella, France’s favourite spread?
Annette, I am an addict for home-made apricot jam on my toast !!
I think you’ll agree that Nicole is the perfect person to help you enjoy France, so if you’re itching to experience the heady fragrances of Provence or practice your French, head over to Walk the French Talk Tours or the French With Nicole website and say ‘Hi’.
For virtual tours of Nicole’s France check out her Instagram French With Nicole.
Thanks to Nicole for her insight into living a very french life in Australia and why she loves Provence.
A Taste of Paris
I first saw the very delicious products of A Taste of Paris at the Bleu Blanc Rouge Festival 2016 (now named Bastille Festival) in Sydney and was very impressed by the beautiful smiles of the owners and the quality and choice of their products. There were so many yummy things to choose from it was difficult to decide what to take home. I ended up purchasing Mustard with Black Olives and Rosemary and Patiences (which were almost finished by the time we got home – 2 hours drive away). I was so happy to be able to chat to Corinne at the Festival and learn more about her products and family.
Here’s a little background info:
In 2007 Corinne fell in love with Australia and its people and settled down in Melbourne in 2008. The company is driven by her passion, vision and extensive experience in the Delicatessen Food Industry. Talented collaborators throughout France and Australia back her up with energy and enthusiasm.
Back in France, Corinne was Food Sourcing Specialist for Le Bon Marché de Paris, Store Manager within the Carrefour Group and Managing Director/Buyer for Holding Force 5.
After finishing his Commerce Studies in Paris, Julian decided to be a part of this amazing journey by by joining Corinne in Australia. Soon after he met Morgane in Melbourne who was working as an Engineer in Industrial Risks. After looking at the safety of people in industry, she was very enthusiastic to prevent our foodie customers from the Gourmet Food addiction and to thus perpetuate the “Family Love Affair”.
Firstly Corinne, I must ask about your super cool logo. Who came up with the concept?
During my entire career back in France, in the food industry, I always been fascinated by the impact of “strong” logos in terms of recognition (marketing speaking). So, when the idea to create our own product brand by importing these up-market gourmet French products, all drafts came up with the Eiffel Tower. “Taste of Paris” was obvious to define our selection of artisanal products made in France and… yes …yes… yes… we were able to disguise The Eiffel Tower by an “A” in our brand logo and “A Taste of Paris” was born.
Corinne you were the food sourcing specialist with Le Bon Marché, Paris and a store manager within the Carrefour Group, two very diverse companies. Is there a story you can share about your time with the world’s first departmental store, the elegantly iconic Le Bon Marché?
Yes, Carrefour Group and Le Bon Marche are very different food business companies, but the story behind these two experiences starts with my journey of working for our family food business “Force 5″ in the south of France, for more than 12 years. My father has been an amazing mentor for me, especially during all those years spent working closely with him. At the age of 26 years old, he gave me the opportunity to be in charge of the buying and sourcing for the Company. This is the reason why our business name in Australia is “Force 5 Imports” in memory of this magical time. We sold the Company and then I followed my passion of food by working with these two big companies (Carrefour Group and Le Bon Marche) in the world of food. My time working for Le Bon Marche has been amazing, in terms of the creativeness and “No-Limit” philosophy and to be able to meet and collaborate with all the chefs and chef artisans from all around the world. Our mission was to create trend and fashion in the up-market food industry.
What do you think is the best thing about working in a family business? And why?
Just… just love it! Julian, my son is my business partner since the start and 6 months ago, Julian’s fiancée, Morgane became a new member of the team “A Taste of Paris”. Trust, complicity and the ability to share the good and also the bad are very precious for the health of our business.
You have so many divine products at A Taste of Paris, what are your best selling ones? And what makes these ones so popular do you think?
Our best selling products are the full range of “Gold Collection” (Gold Truffle Mustard, Gold Sugar, Gold Salt and Pepper… and our new Gold Chocolate range. These items are so unique, so beautiful and so good. Dedicated to life’s special occasions and everyday pleasures…
Travelling to France to source new products must be a heap of fun. Who gets to go and how often?
I must admit that it is the best part of our business, combining sourcing products by meeting all these artisans and pleasure visiting our family. I try to go once a year and Julian & Morgane once a year as well.
One last question, what is your favourite spread to put on toast, Australian Vegemite or Nutella, France’s favourite spread?
Ahhh! Nutella of course … by the way, next year a new up-market Hazelnut chocolately spread “A Taste of Paris” will be part of our new collection. Schuttt! For this new line, we are working very closely with one of the Top 5 French Chocolate Makers on few recipes that will “rock” all Chocolate lovers on this side of the world.
Oh wow, a chocolate spread on its way – yummo! If you can’t wait to get your own gold sugar, organic mustard or pepper then head over to A Taste of Paris‘ website. I absolutely LOVE my very decadent gold sugar (sucre or) and my morello cherry & champagne gold chutney. To see these gorgeous foods and check out their Instagram feed A Taste of Paris.
Thank you Corinne for sharing your passion of food and your cool career history.
Madame Vintage and Gigi a la Maison
Being interested in antiques and collectibles I’ve enjoyed following Victoria of Madame Vintage and Lee (affectionately known as Gigi) of Gigi a la Maison’s social media posts and was delighted to interview both these stylish ladies who are living the dream of mixing work, travel to France and lifestyle.
Here’s a little background on Victoria:
Victoria “is discovering gorgeous vintage items everyday that will enhance, possibly complete, your life. It could be an item you fall in love with and then can’t live without, an extra special gift for a loved one, something stunning for your home or a long sort after or rare collectible that she may just have found.”
And now a little background on Lee:
Lee with her keen eye is a specialist so when you “enter Gigi a la Maison you will become immersed in Provence with a quirky Bohemian twist. This French Brocante found in Melbourne offers an eclectic mix of antique & vintage homewares, many direct from France. Lee specialises in the stunning antique French enamel ware and Toleware which was produced from the 1850s through to the 1940s. With a French flea market atmosphere many a hidden treasure can be found at Gigi a la Maison.”
How gorgeous are Victoria and Lee… you can feel their passion oozing through.
If you love surrounding yourself with special items and living a life of beauty then I know you’ll want to check out more of Madame Vintages’ gorgeous collectibles at the Waverley Antique Bazaar, Mount Waverley, Victoria and of course on Instagram Madame Vintage and Facebook Madame Vintage.
To check out the stunning enamel wear that Lee has for you, visit her vibrant store also at Waverley Antique Bazaar, Mount Waverley, Victoria and over on Instagram Gigi a la Maison and Facebook Gigi a la Maison.
Thank you to Victoria and Lee for sharing your expertise and passion with us.
After spending a weekend at the whimsical pop-up village Emily and I started to excitedly plan our next European tour on the flight home. Webjet has some great deals on touring Europe so if you, like us, are planning a Europe Tour head on over to Webjet which we use and recommend.
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