Vive the French friend­ship


Twenty-five years ago, when I was in Noumea at­tend­ing a French teach­ers’ im­mer­sion pro­gram, I met Fran­cois, a young Bre­ton plan­ning a work­ing hol­i­day in Aus­tralia. I told him that, in the un­likely event that he made it to our re­gional South Aus­tralian town, he would be wel­come to stay with our fam­ily.

Sev­eral months later he rang to say he was about to travel the Great Ocean Road. Would he still be wel­come?

We crammed as much as we could into his brief “coun­try” Aussie ex­pe­ri­ence: a farm clear­ing sale, four­wheel driv­ing and, of course, lamb with the trim­mings. He en­gaged par­tic­u­larly well with our kids who were 11, eight and five at the time. Five years later, I stayed with Fran­cois and his girl­friend He­lene in Rennes and at his par­ents’ home on the north coast of Brit­tany. I was treated to a won­der­ful Bre­ton ex­pe­ri­ence: cider with galettes made by his mum, moules-frites and the beauty of the pink gran­ite of Cote de Granit Rose. We kept in touch with Christ­mas cards, wed­ding news and the birth an­nounce­ments of their three chil­dren.

When our son was 29 he stayed with Fran­cois and his young fam­ily. He had a fab­u­lous week, watch­ing Premier League soc­cer, drink­ing cham­pagne and, as his host had be­fore him, en­ter­tain­ing and be­ing en­ter­tained by the three chil­dren of the house, who were 10 and un­der.

Early last year Fran­cois emailed, ask­ing if I could help ar­range for his daugh­ter, Anna, 16, to at­tend school in Aus­tralia over the French school hol­i­days. We are now liv­ing in Ade­laide, and I was able to or­gan­ise an ex­change at a lo­cal school. Of course, I in­sisted she stay with us.

Her Aussie ex­pe­ri­ence in­cluded vis­its to a wildlife sanc­tu­ary, Uluru and the south­east of South Aus­tralia where our grand­daugh­ter, So­phie, had been born the day af­ter Anna’s ar­rival. Anna quickly made school friends, who in­tro­duced her to foot­ball and meat pies, while at home we made pavlova and An­zac bis­cuits.

Re­cently we had an email from Fran­cois, who told us that Anna was keen to host So­phie in France when she’s old enough. Long may our cul­tural ex­changes con­tinue. Send your 400-word con­tri­bu­tion to Fol­low the Reader: travel@theaus­ Colum­nists will re­ceive a hard­back copy of New Zealand Wine by War­ren Mo­ran, a guide to key wine­mak­ers and wine re­gions; $75. More:

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