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: firstname.lastname@example.org. Columnists will receive a hardback copy of New Zealand Wine by Warren Moran, a guide to key winemakers and wine regions; $75. More: hardiegrant.com.au.