Mon histoire française, my French story!

Mon histoire française, my French story!

In Paris or regional France, an escape en français is food for my soul!

Loulabelle's FrancoFiles episode 100 - click here to listen

Guest: Moi! Louise Prichard, interviewed by Ruby Boukabou

Other Loulabelles links:

Loulabelles FrancoFiles Instagram

FrancoFile Fix on YouTube

Loulabelles FrancoFiles Spotify Playlist

Loulabelles FrancoFiles Facebook

I have always had a love of France as long as I can remember. When I was a little girl, my home was filled with old music and the old “chanson” from my dear Papa who is a wonderful muso. My beautiful friend Wendy Lee Taylor (who I have also interviewed on the podcast way back in episode 3) we learned dancing together as young girls. All the dancers would come to my house and Dad would play all the old music for us, sometimes gorgeous French standards, so I think my love of all things French grew from that period. Dad passed his love of French music onto me and both he and my Mumma loved anything to do with France. I can’t count the number of times we watched Leslie Caron and Maurice Chevalier movies as I grew up! Now my dear Mum has passed on, Papa (we call him Papa now since he became a grandfather) Papa and I still love to spend time together listening to French music as we potter in the garden, watching French movies, visiting French themed events in Australia and reading French books. We spend the day chattering away en français aussi!

In the March of 2020 I was to take a trip to France with my oldest girlfriends from my school days. We planned to visit Paris and the Champagne region as a celebration for our communal 50th birthdays. In the week I was to depart, COVID hit Australia and our world started to shut down. I was in disbelief that our travel plans were to be cancelled and obviously devastated not to be able to visit my favourite place, France. In Melbourne Australia where I live, we then began the first of our lockdowns which ended up being among the longest in the world. The impact on us all of not being able to leave our homes was huge, especially to our mental health. I started listening to podcasts during my hour of allowable exercise outside per day, but found that I had so many more questions for the guests of the shows I was tuning into could answer! So I decided to make my own podcast and the Loulabelle’s FrancoFiles was born!

The world had only just started to connect via online platforms like zoom. It was a huge learning curve to attain all the latest equipment and IT requirements to record and publish an episode a week, but it was a challenge I grabbed with enthusiasm. I started recording in my walk-in-robe amongst my coats and dresses! This space absorbed the sound brilliantly, but I eventually graduated to a foam and French fabric lined recording studio which I built in that same space to conduct the Loulabelle’s interviews via zoom.

I’m the sort of person who wonders what kind of lives people have when I’m looking at cottages whilst driving through a little village, or what life was like in a particular period of time for the ordinary people as well as the infamous characters of history. I was always a day dreamer as a child and still consider time when we can stop, ponder and dream as being invaluable to our daily routine and mental health.

Since starting the Loulabelle’s FrancoFiles podcast I’ve interviewed so many fascinating people! I’ve chatted to Michelin star chefs, Paris jazz singers, French authors, a Provence wine master, French celebrities in Australia such as Gabriel Gâté, French historians, Paris florists, Paris Lido dancers, château owners, Paris photographers and more! Some people more well-known than others but all with a lovely French story to tell. I’ve been so surprised by how much people like to chat about their connection to France! I never tire of listening to all their French related stories as they just transport me away to France! I have had some lovely feedback from listeners around the world about how the Loulabelle’s FrancoFiles podcast has kept them buoyant through some tough times. I’m loving the fact that it continues to help people in some small way after the recent (and in some places ongoing) difficult COVID times.

So way back for my first trip to France I was so fortunate to be invited to accompany one of my beautiful girlfriends who was travelling for work and she was able to take a travel companion. Unfortunately Christina’s husband couldn’t join her as he needed to stay and take care of their young kids, so I jumped at the opportunity! Right from that first trip I felt such a connection to the architecture, the history, the food, the people, the language, the customs. I can’t put my finger on just one thing really. I just know that when I first travelled to Paris and then also France, initially I walked around in a daze. My little mind was just blown apart and I knew I had found my place in the world.

Each time I return to Paris now I stay in the same apartment overlooking the Seine on the Ile Saint-Louis. I love the feeling, even though it’s only momentary of being a little bit connected to the locals. Now when I’m there I love catching up with gorgeous Lilianne at my fave restaurant emporter (or takeaway) in the street that runs up the middle of the island or going to my hairdresser in the St Paul area of the Marais.

Bizarrely, I also adore the connection I feel with my mum when I’m there in France, especially Paris.  I lost my mum about 9-10 years back and it was her that actually inspired me to connect to Paris and France. We talked about it so much together even though we only ever travelled there separately and never together. Loads of my family met in Paris to commemorate her memory not long after she passed away and I find that still now when I’m in France I feel a strange but wonderful closeness to her there that doesn’t happen for me in Australia. Quite bizarre, but beautiful at the same time.

I adore Paris, but there is something about the little villages with their squares and the markets that just makes my soul burst. When I’ve been road tripping around France I actually can’t wait to return to Paris, but when I’m in Australia it’s my memories of country France that keeps my little Frenchy vibes fluttering! Every time I travel to a new place in France I declare that it is my favourite, that I want to buy a petit cottage and move there to live happily ever after! There are so many places that pull at my heart strings as they hold wonderful souvenirs of time spent there making lifetime memories. My ultimate favourite though is the area surrounding Chinon in the Loire Valley. I just love the natural environment, the history, the architecture, the wine, the proximity to Paris. Provence also holds a special place in my heart. I visited there with my husband Paul for a little roadtrip on our first vacation there together. I adored everything about that holiday. Of course this could all change… ask me again after my next road trip and I might have a new fave!

The sense of freedom I have in France is overwhelming, as is the way I can satisfy my curiosity. I feel so connected to the past and to the people who have gone there before me. I actually found out that my 6 x great grandmother on my Dad’s side was born in Bayonne in 1664, so we go back a way in France. I must say I was thrilled but not surprised that there was some French somewhere as I do feel a deep connection.

To keep connected to France when I’m not there, I watch quite a bit of French Tele and I listen to my Loulabelle’s fabulous Frenchy Spotify playlist.  I love the series “L’Agence” (English title The Parisian Agency). It’s a show about a real-life family of real-estate agents in Paris (a mum and dad plus their four sons) and follows their life and their work. I’m sure they make it look more glamorous than a job like that would ordinarily be, but the show helps me tune my ear to listening to native French speakers talk quickly. It also immerses me in the real estate business of Paris and feeds my fascination with finding out what is behind all those huge, decorative doors across Paris!

But more than just watching French culture or listening to it in music, I pop a little bit of France into every day. I’ll use a perfume I bought in Paris and the scent takes me back there. I’ll set the table with a tablecloth and placemats I bought back from Provence and my French cutlery. I’ll use piment d’Espelette in cooking which reminds me of the Basque. I’ll make a little Lyonnaise salad de Loulabelle which is my lyonnaise salad with my own twist, which just by having cornichons reminds me of the little charcuterie boards I make in the Paris apartment for Apéro. We can inject a little of France into tiny pockets of our day and those teency moments bring me a lot of joy.

I started the Loulabelle’s FrancoFiles podcast to save my mental health during COVID, but it has turned out to have given me so much more. I have now found a new purpose, a new passion and a new direction in my life which I would never have discovered if not for that period of lockdowns. I have heard from many people how the lockdowns became a time of reflection and resetting their life goals. My advice to anyone after making the leap myself to chase my French dreams, is that if you can dream it, you can do it. I believe there is nothing that can’t be achieved with determination, self-belief and hard work… and a supportive family and husband helps too! I am now planning on visiting a number of French regions through 2023 that have so far escaped me. I also have a couple of projects afoot, one to head to the Cannes Film Festival to interview a number of Aussies in person and the other to do a small immersion tour in Lyon! I will also keep having papotages de podcast uncovering many more varied French stories!


Chausson au Pomme


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