About

I am an Australian writer who lives between London and Saint Rémy de Provence in southern France. I adore everything to do with life in France and especially the olive farm I call home.

Born and raised in Australia, my first overseas trip to Paris at the age of ten sparked a passion for travel and adventure that has never ceased. In the last twenty years I have traveled extensively throughout France and become enamored with the French way of life. My first book, MY FRENCH LIFE, was published in 2006 and FRENCH ESSENCE, the second, in 2009. This blog is for those, like me, who are mad for fashion, interiors and all things French.

Thoughts on writing…

I think I am an accidental writer – the opportunity came about and I thought, ’Why not’. I was inspired to write about my ongoing love affair with France and I had a story to tell… some would say that we all have a book within as we all have a story to tell. MY FRENCH LIFE and FRENCH ESSENCE are mine. I see these books as a celebration of my love for France, as my personal thank you to the country that has given me so much happiness. I like to think that I write from the heart. I have always felt that if you tell a story truthfully and with honest conviction then that is what really matters. To write is not so hard but to write well… that is a challenge. To write is to write often. Writing is like exercise – we need to make it happen on a daily basis. To be a writer we must be observers; the greatest writers are natural observers..I am always in awe of writers who can join words together in a way that seems so simple and yet the sentence will stay and play on the mind forever more. That is nothing short of magic.

On blogging…

I started writing my blog, ‘French Essence’ in August of 2008 after my second book FRENCH ESSENCE was completed – the blog was named after the book. Blogging has enabled me to connect with like-minded Francophiles all over the world. I have made wonderful friendships and communicate with fascinating people on a daily basis. Every day is a new day in the blog world…the people and places you can discover are endless. The beauty of blogging is that it is instant and becomes a record of your interests or obsessions, almost like a visual diary….and there is a freedom to blogging…the publishing is at your discretion and the content is of your own choice. Blogging for me is at it’s best when the words flow and the ideas come… when I strike a chord…. I think of this blog as my home and I want it to be not only a haven for me but for you.

On Provence…

Provence was a region that appealed because of it’s natural beauty, traditions and relaxed way of life. In 1999 my family and I fell head over heals in love with an abandoned fruit farm in Saint Rémy de Provence and that changed everything. We sold our home in Australia and moved to London to be closer to the farm in order to supervise the restoration. Our children were in school and my husband had business interests in the UK so we decided that London was a practical choice for our relocation. Now that the children are older I am able to spend most of my year in Provence….One word that sums up Provence….heaven…Provence is about the senses. Indulging in them is the way to discover the beauty of Provence. Basking in the sunshine, wondering at the history, exploring the villages, shopping in the markets, relaxing with a glass of wine and dining in the brasseries.…Sometimes I feel as if life stands still in Provence.

On gardens…

Provencal gardens are Mediterranean in nature which means that they are much more casual and relaxed than their formal counterparts in northern France. Our Provencal garden is where we live for the majority of the year and like all gardens, is a work in progress. I view the garden, much like I view interiors, as a series of rooms that need to be furnished not only for purpose but also for beauty. The shapes, the levels and the colours are the elements that I mull over. I am relatively new to gardening and although I grew up in a household of devoted gardeners, I am learning each season through my successes and my failures. Gardens and interiors have much in common; it is all about individual taste and creating a space that works best for you.

On olive trees…

I have fallen in love with the olive tree – the gnarly shape of the trunk, the ever changing silveriness of the leaves and their… what I like to call… stoic natures. They are resilient in the face of the harshest conditions and have lifespans a millennium long. Truthfully, as a business, to grow olives for sale is hard work and far from profitable but I am committed and enjoy the relationship that I have forged with nature.

On French style…

‘I like to think that in France there is a sixth sense – a French sense… French sense is simple – it is chemistry, a magical mix of the sights, sounds, smells, tastes and textures… As a nation France has chemistry, as individuals the French have spark.’

I have always been interested in fashion, design and architecture and Europe as a continent is over brimming with wonderful examples. It doesn’t seem to matter whether it’s London, Paris, Rome or Berlin there are so many elements of design, both natural and manmade, that stimulate the mind and make me want to be more creative. I first discovered French style through magazines. I naturally gravitated to that eclectic style the French so cleverly put together. I loved the mix of old and new and the play between the serious and the whimsical. French décor is bold yet classic. At times it can be contemporary and almost shocking yet it can also be refined, elegant and subdued. The brilliance of French décor is that it is not predictable or formulaic and that it is very individual. My own ‘French’ style … a merger between the contemporary and the antique…. is a contradiction in terms…but what I try and achieve is a blend between what is truly of today, what is comfortable and what is an antique or a collectible. I believe that the best interiors are those that are personal – spaces that teach you about the lives of the occupants and their individual personalities.

On flea markets…

Collecting is one of the great joys of living in France and there are always so many flea markets to search in … there is everything from the grand Salon des Antiquaires to the very humble brocante and vide grenier. The French are great collectors historically and that is why their love of the flea market never wanes. I love to browse the marche aux puces in Paris at Clignancourt and in southern France I often visit L’Ilse sur la Sorgue, a town very close to Saint Rémy de Provence, that specialises in antiques. I will always try and wander around the local village brocantes when they are on, which is most weekends. Every village, no matter what the size, has a brocante several times a year at the very least. Bargains are not like they once were but as an eternal optimist I am always on the look out for the ‘fabulous find’…. I try to keep an open mind when antique hunting and I think that is the one way to guarantee success. My rules when flea market shopping are simple. If the item doesn’t resonate 100% I won’t buy it; there will always be another opportunity. If you have to think for too long then it is not the right piece. On the other hand if you fall in love with a one-time object, snap it up and don’t deliberate. First reactions are always the ones to trust.

On moving to France…

The most important considerations when moving to a foreign country are the practical ones. Research as much as possible and seek professional advise before leaping into the great unknown. The administrative system in France is very different from anywhere else and a working knowledge of this is important. Having said that, I believe that a dream, however big or small, is something to follow. Facing change and taking on challenges makes us strong and makes us be the people we want to be. Yes, I always say take a risk, try hard for what you want and the rewards will follow. Without risk there is no gain. This does not mean to say that sometimes following dreams is without heartache but from these disappointments comes the strength and wisdom to carry on and make that dream a reality.

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portrait – Carla Coulson

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