April Hollands’ blog, describes her life in St. Jean de Sixt (in the Rhône Alpes.)
I wanted to interview April for A Taste of Garlic to discover what Life in France means to an Australian girl (albeit one who has spent some time living in England.)
Especially one who describes herself as… A typical Aussie girl who has somehow ended up in the French Alps, living amongst the cows, the cheese and the snow.
With that in mind I put new batteries in the new GPS I treated myself to for Christmas (only £25 from that dodgy looking geezer down at Peckham market), packed a bag and set off for St. Jean de Sixt to interview April face to face.
However, six hours later I realised that the GPS was fitted with maps for South America (no wonder it was so cheap!)
This didn’t prove to be too much use in rural Brittany and after trying unsuccessfully to program it not to route me via Patagonia I gave up and decided to email the interview through instead.
1). What advice would you give to anyone thinking about flying half way round the world to start a new life in France?
April – Be prepared to start a life of always missing someone on the other side of the world, be it where you came from or any of the places you end up living. On the up side: free accommodation with friends you’ve established worldwide for the rest of your life!
2). Taking myself, Johnny Hallyday and Gerard Depardieu out of the equation; who is the sexiest man in France?
April – Haha, funnily enough, I just wrote a blog entry about Johnny Hallyday and how you can’t joke about his death in France. Another Johnny – of the Depp variety – lives just south of where I am, so there’s no contest. I just need to get that Vanessa and their kids out of the picture long enough for him to find me.
3). Have you been following the Johnny Hallyday situation? Would you agree that Que je t’aime is the greatest rock song ever?
April - Yes, I’ve been following the French Elvis situation very closely. It’s hard not to when it’s the headline news every night despite world climate discussions in Copenhagen etc. I can’t go past the French version of “Oh What a Night” (in French, it’s “Cetta Annee La” which literaly means “That Year Then” and includes the obligatory French song reference to birds amongst its totally changed lyrics). Also, the guy who sung it somehow electrocuted himself to death in the bath tub. Johnny has faced cancer, coma and severe back pain, but he hasn’t electrocuted himself yet. He must try harder if he wants me to top-rate his songs.
4). Australia has a somewhat undeserved reputation for shark attacks, bush fires and dangerous snakes. Did this, in any way, influence you in your decision to move to snowy Annecy?
April – Actually yes. Well, kind of. The weather in Melbourne was a ridiculous 35° at 7am on the morning I left and that kind of confirmed my reason for leaving. Snow is much more fun than heat.
5). You admitted in June 2008 (yup, your blog was actually read, every single word, by a human being at A Taste Of Garlic and not by a machine. We wanted a machine but it cost too much!) that you don’t really understand football (the English kind rather than Aussie Rules.) You even claim to understand the offside rule (if you do, you’ll be the first girlie that I’ve ever met to do so!) So, Thierry Henry’s cheating in the World Cup qualifier – a suitable case for the restoration of the Gullotine, or not?
April – Look, I can explain the off-side rule to you with tomato sauce bottles and salt an pepper shakers (I learnt it over a full English breakfast in a fry-up shop many years ago), but I can’t discuss football beyond that. Thierry is, of course, far too charismatic for the Guillotine and I think of him more as a car advertisement (va va voom) than a footballer. Good eye candy.
6). If the world was really going to end in 2012, would you fly back to Australia or would you order a lorry load of pain au choclat, foie gras and champagne and wait it out at home?
April – I’d take all my money out of the bank and spend the rest of my life chasing winters to go sliding down the white stuff. I’d also take mini-breaks in tropical places just to mix things up a bit.
7). Ricard or Pernod?
April – Ricard every single time. With just a tiny bit of grenadine thanks.
8). What do you say to the people who believe that Elvis isn’t dead but is scraping a living running a naturist campsite in St Jean de Sixt?
April – Look, are we talking about Johnny Hallyday again or the real Elvis? Oh yeah, Johnny isn’t dead yet and I shouldn’t joke about such things. Right, so the real Elvis. Well, I’ve certainly seen a few big guts on some locals here. He’d integrate well. And surprisingly, I’ve heard there’s a naturist “beach” down by the river of Thones, ten minutes down the road. I thought it was just a popular fishing spot. Elvis might be hanging down there.
9). Foie Gras – a gift from the gods or just plain cruel (and bad for the waistline?)
April – As a vegetarian, I have to say just plain cruel. My other half had some with his family at Christmas and I refused to kiss him. Smelly.
10). Earlier this year you wrote an article about How to Pee in Switzerland. Is this a subject of special interest for you?
April – Well, it was certainly a subject of special interest to the Swiss. My recent visit to Australia left me cursing the missed photo opportunity in a toilet at Melbourne Airport. There’s a sign of someone squatting on top of the toilet with a big red line through it. No squatting! I should have taken my camera in there with me and I should remember to do that from now on. Just in case…
11). You’ve written some romantic fiction. So, who are the most romantic, Aussie men or French men?
April – There is absolutely no contest there: French men win hands down. Sorry Aussie guys, but romance is not “Hey, you wanna beer? Yeah? Can you get me one too then.”
12). You state on your blog profile that you like cow watching. Do you, like me, every time you see a cow (or pig, sheep or duck – as well as a host of other animals), visualise the poor beast (or just the best bits of it), being cooked to perfection and served up with a nice glass of Chianti?
April – …and thus the reason I stopped eating meat. I humanise animals way too much because they’re all so cute and fluffy that I can’t bring myself to eat them any more. Thankfully, they sell Quorn fake meat products in Switzerland, so if I’m ever desperate for a meat-tasting fix, I can just cross the border and go crazy without the guilt I would feel with real meat.
13). Do you want to answer any more questions or would you prefer to pop off down the bar for a nice glass of beer and let me make up the rest of the answers?
April – Actually, I’d prefer to hit the slopes which is what I’m just about to do. Today’s hardest decision: do I ski, snowboard or telemark today?
Well, what a nice girl she seems, for a vegetarian, that is! And she even understands the Offside Rule!
All the best