Aussie teenager’s French Christmas dream!

Aussie teenager’s French Christmas dream!

Grace McMahon travelled to France for Christmas and a life changing school exchange experience!

Loulabelle's FrancoFiles Episode 19

Guest: Grace McMahon

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I have known Grace McMahon’s family since I was aged 5 and at school with her aunt. I have seen her grow up from a little girl as she went to school with mes enfants from a young age too, so I followed her journey to France with such excitement and pride!

Grace finished secondary school in 2020 in Melbourne Australia, but in 2019 she went half way around the world to be an exchange student in France staying with a French host family for a couple of months over the Australian Christmas/summer break.

Embarking on an exchange to France had always been an intention for Grace as her school had been organising these programs for students at her school over many years. Watching the bigger girls come back and talk about their French exchange, set her dreams in that direction from a young age.

Grace stayed in a small town called Melun a half hour drive south of Paris. Her host family had another 17 year old girl and a 10 year old younger brother. French was spoken the whole time with only a tiny bit of English which gave her French a huge workout!

Grace loved school in France, and was excited not to have to wear a school uniform. The canteen was very different to what she was used to in Australia too with full meals served at lunch time. Grace attended all the classes with her “host-sister” except German, one foreign language was enough! A couple of things at school which surprised Grace were the fact that loads of the teenage kids smoked, very different from Australia. And also that the hundreds of kids attending her school all needed to go through the one regular sized door, rather small for the volume of people to enter the school, without big gates.

I have always dreamed of being in France at Christmas and was thrilled to hear of Grace travelling with her host family to Reims for the Christmas markets. There were marching bands and vin chaud sold at stalls. To hear Grace talk of it has only fueled my wish to be in France during the festive season in the future.

Grace was fortunate to travel with the host family as many do in France to visit family in the regions during the short Christmas break. Travelling like a French local is something most of us wish for!

A favourite memory for Grace was shopping on the Champs Elysee and at Galeries Lafayette. Being there during a time when everything was decorated for Christmas added an extra layer of excitement and made up a little for being away from her family during this special time of year.

Movies et musique

Grace watches French shows and movies to keep connected to France whilst back in Australia. One recommendation is La Famille Bélier. A comedy about a daughter of deaf parents discovering her gift for singing! Grace also watched a particular French game show with her host family that was about finding the lyrics in popular sings. This led her to be exposed to more French music and in this episode we hear Quand j’étais chanteur by Vianney, a French singer-songwriter originally from Pau in south west France, who moved to Paris in his teens. At age 24 he won performing artist of the year at the “Victoires de la musique awards in 2016.


Grace discovered a fave French treat during her exchange to France, canelés.

Canelés are unique little cakes from Bordeaux and are absolutely delightful. They are however quite difficult to make so canelés can be bought in a few cafes in Melbourne, Australia, (Gracious and Delicious in Geelong and also Choukette on Sydney Rd Brunswick). A quick Google search will find them in your local area wherever you’re listening from.

A perfect canelé will have a rich, moist and custardy heart beneath a thin, crispy, caramelized shell. I have searched for a simple recipe, and found one by Taste of Artisan to be the best to follow if you wish to make them from scratch. To get beautiful, shiny exterior you’ll need to use traditional copper molds and coat the inside with a beeswax and butter mix. They are très délicieux if you get them right!

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