Actually it’s Saturday and it’s Toronto …

If It’s Friday, It Must Be France … 

Sorry I’m late with this … yesterday was a little busy …

Although our idyll in France is over and we returned to Toronto yesterday, I’m going to continue posting about the south of France for a while longer. I receive a lot of e-mails about these posts with great questions and I’m happy to keep sharing information and my photos. People seem to prefer sending e-mails to leaving comments and that’s just fine with me. I’ll get back to you either way … avec plaisir!

All summer in France we intended to go and see the Woody Allen movie “Midnight In Paris” at one of the English movie theatres in Nice. Somehow we never got around to it. It seemed kind of fitting then, as I settled into my seat for the flight to Toronto from France yesterday that this was one of my movie choices. I loved it!

First of all, the camera caresses Paris throughout the film and truly gives you a sense of being there. Secondly, the main character writes screenplays and is an aspiring novelist. Hmm, a lot to which I could relate. I had no idea of any other details although I had read in the Nice-Matin (my morning French lesson newspaper) that Carla Bruni-Sarkozy, the wife of the President of France, had a small role. They seemed quite proud of that.

The fact that other artists and writers factored into the story in such an interesting way was a completely delightful surprise. This isn’t a film for adventure seekers or a chick flick. Funny and charming, it’s a romantic comedy – a love story about a city and a culture as  much as about some people who have very different views of what is important in life.

That takes care of the movie part of this post. Now for the music. A French friend told me about a popular singer here called Zaz and I was SO glad she did! I’ve been playing her music on my morning walks all summer. This song is my favourite and I was amazed to find a video showing english lyrics. It’s fun and energizing and  a great motivator in the morning!

Now that we’ve looked at some recent entertainment from France, here’s the beloved Edith Piaf to take us back to the past.

Next Friday, this blog will be visiting the beautiful town of Arles. I hope you will be along! Is there some place in the south of France you would like to know more about? I’m always happy to share information, photos or answer any questions you may have.

I have a confession to make …

Okay, here are my excuses for not having a post organized for today:

1. Our wifi was down for five days.

2. Every time I went to an internet cafe I was distracted by all the cool stuff going on around me. Even in the quietest location it was all just happening … um, maybe my timing was off … happy hour is always happy, isn’t it …

3. I’m packing and organizing to return to Toronto after our four and a half months in Antibes.

4. Our French friends keep organizing “au revoir” moments (Seriously, my hairdresser is even closing her shop so a few of us can share lunch there tomorrow, how sweet is that? It will be my last opportunity to stumble through a social engagement entirely in French with three women whose laughter is contagious and who patiently explain until I get it too.)

5. With the internet unavailable at home the “distraction quotient”, a common writer’s issue, was greatly reduced. I got on a roll with my manuscript and made great headway this past week. A few unexpected characters  found their way into the story and I’ve been having a fine time developing them. I like it when that happens. I feel energized about the story and hopefully will be able to stay on track and complete it by December.

Now that I’ve shared my list of excuses, I hope it explains why this video has nothing to do with anything except entertainment. One of our kids sent it to me a few months ago and I watch it from time to time (did I mention the “distraction quotient”?) because it is just so much fun. It’s been around, so whether you are viewing it for the first time or the umpteenth, enjoy!  Then send it on to someone you know who will smile just as much when they watch it. Tillman rocks!

This week helped remind me that I need to spend less time on internet demands and more time on actual writing. I’ve got to keep Kristen Lamb’s words ringing in my ear!  If you are a writer or a blogger and haven’t taken her awesome blogging and social media online course, click here and sign up now. She puts it all in perspective.

Enjoy these last few days of September!

Gentillesse Gratuité – Free Kindness

If It’s Friday, It Must Be France …

My friend author Naomi Bulger (don’t miss her Messages In A Bottle blog) is in France and Italy right now on a wonderful holiday with her family. I know they are having an awesome trip making memories that will last a lifetime.  Naomi has such a quirky, creative eye and the ability to discover beauty in the most unusual places, I can’t wait to hear about her adventures and see her photos.

I was delighted when she asked if I would contribute to her blog in her absence! Since it’s Friday and she’s in France and so am I (although we will miss each other by days) and  I always write about France on Friday, here it is!

Last week I wrote on my blog about random acts of kindness and it was awesome to hear from so many of you. Thanks for the e-mails! There’s a lot of good stuff going on out there in this big wide world of ours and your stories are inspiring. Keep spreading them! In France the term translates as Gentillesse Gratuité – Free Kindness. I like that, don’t you?

On November 13, they celebrate La Journée de la Gentillesse in France and the number of people participating each year is growing.

Apparently November 13, 2011, is now officially World Kindness Day,  a day that encourages individuals to overlook boundaries, race and religion. According to modern psychology, altruistic acts increase our own happiness in a profound way.

The mission of The World Kindness Movement, introduced in 1988,  is to inspire individuals towards greater kindness and connect nations to create a kinder world. The WKM encourages individuals of all nations to set up their own kindness movements and join the WKM. Currently, membership includes representation from France as well as Australia, Brazil, Canada, Dubai, England, India, Italy, Japan, Nepal, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Nigeria, Scotland, South Korea, Thailand and the USA.

This post isn’t as much about France as other Fridays and I’ll make it up to you next week, I promise! But I did find this video which has that je ne sais quoi flavour to it.

Why can’t we make every day a kindness day? I mean, wouldn’t we all be a lot better off?  Let’s each start our own personal movement right now and see where it takes us! Let me know how it’s working for you and pass the message on.

If you go to you can order these cool cards.

Be the change you wish to see! La gentillesse a toujours du bon!

Request Free Cards Via Mail | Send Your Name and Mailing Address to

Kindness Card (2 sided – back image of card below)

Request Free Cards Via Mail | Send Your Name and Mailing Address to

Thank You Card (1 sided)

Request Free Cards Via Mail | Send Your Name and Mailing Address to

Les Amis – ours and Saint-Bernardin’s

If It’s Friday, It Must Be France …

Mon Dieu! It’s a good thing there’s a time difference so I’ll get this post on my blog on Friday somewhere! We had six very special friends – 5 adults and one absolutely adorable two-month old Alice –  for lunch (le déjeuner) today and it did go on, in a very good way, until well into this afternoon!

This morning I dashed off to the market to pick up a few items and to have a fromage (cheese) consultation with my friend Jacques (who has now asked me to use “tu” with him, which means we’re tight … we’re friends … I’m so pleased ). Did I mention he is the model for one of the main characters in the novel I’m currently writing? But I digress …

I  just want to share this one comment of his with you because it demonstrates something that I love about the French and their traditions. He asked if our friends were French or English. When I said they were French, he replied, “Le Brie, c’est obligatoire!” In other words, when serving cheese (always after the meal, NEVER before in France except for little cocktail chunks of cheese which I’ll explain some other time) to your French friends you  MUST include some Brie. Then he chose a Bleue and a Beaufort to go along with that. I’m having quite an education in the art of cheese.

But I have a confession to make (and I don’t intend to tell my good friend Jacques, I hope he doesn’t read this … he did ask for my website … ok, I might have to confess …). We were having such a good time and our friends brought this amazing dessert and I forgot to serve the cheese. I can’t believe it!  After all that! I know Jacques would be as disappointed as I am. Never mind, some dear friends of ours are arriving tomorrow for a week and I’ll serve it to them. They aren’t French but I know they will enjoy it almost as much!

Speaking of friends, last evening my DH and I had tickets to a Bach violin oncert in the 16thC, La Chapelle De St.-Bernardin in the old town of Antibes (where we are living for just two more weeks … wiping tears so I can continue to type …). After all the amazing jazz we heard in July with the Nice Jazz Festival and then our own Jazz À Juan, this would be quite a change.

I often pop into this small church which is built on the site of Roman ruins, as are many buildings here. It’s on my way to the market and I’m in love with the doors. I like to touch them (you’re allowed to)  and think about the people connected to them. They’re 500 years old and the wood is simply beautiful with a colour so intensely rich and warm they almost feel alive. The date, 1581, is carved into them.

If I don’t go into the church, I look at the doors at the end of the narrow alley leading to them every single time I walk by. Did I mention, I love them? I’ve posted about these doors before but will just remind you of the story. In the 1500’s there was a terrible plague in the area. The survivors arranged for these doors to be carved and donated to the church in thanks. Beautiful.

Part of the wonderful story of this little chapel is that it almost didn’t survive the passing of centuries and the change in society’s approach to religion. Like many churches during the French Revolution (1789-1799), the church was taken over and it’s riches plundered. After that the building fell into disrepair and abandonment. In the late 1970’s there was a fire in the building after which a group of local people founded Les Amis de Saint-Bernardin. Through their dedicated efforts the chapel has been restored to it’s former glory. Every detail was carefully researched and returned to it’s original appearance. They were able to uncover and clean one fresco in such condition that it has been left in it’s original state. It’s very moving to view.

The before and after photos of the work accomplished in this project are incredible. When the doors of the church are open anyone may go in at no cost and in fact there is no place to even leave a donation. It was declared an historical monument in 1985.

The concert, performed by renowned Olivier Charlier, was beautiful and the setting simply intensified the experience. Click here to visit his site and actually hear him playing.

I’m certain Les Amis de Saint-Bernardin feel proud and satisfied by their efforts. We stand in awe. It’s wonderful what friends can do.

Have you worked on any special projects with friends of yours? It would be great to hear your experiences.

Have you forgotten to serve something special to your friends when they were over for a meal? Please leave a comment below and tell me I’m not alone!

Windows, wandering and wondering …

If it’s Friday, It Must Be France …

One of my favourite buildings in Nice is where the artist Henri Matisse lived for many years beginning in the 1920’s. There is no plaque marking this history  of the building and the space is not open for viewing. It was after a number of years of visiting this fabulous city that I learned about it. But I had always loved the building. It’s right at the end of Cours Saleya, the market street in the old town, and can’t be missed. Most tourists probably have a photo of it in their vacation collection because it literally hollers at you to take it’s picture.

I spent today wandering around Nice with a BFF who is visiting us for a week from the States. If you’ve read my novel, The Bridge Club, she’s the character Cass and we were in Nice together 44 (yikes!) years ago when we were 21. We shared a lot of memories today and laughed way too much! It was so much fun.

She’s a photographer too and we took a lot of window shots as we wandered. You can’t help yourself!


The colour combinations of buildings and shutters are striking. Old, restored, peeling, pristine.  Don’t ask how many photos I have of  them … it’s crazy …

These shots fall in the restored and pristine category. I’m saving the old and peeling for another day.



I often wonder who looks out the windows I photograph.


Sometimes I see faces in the windows as my shutter clicks away and I hope they don’t mind.

But as we wandered and reminisced and laughed and photographed and appreciated the beauty around us, we became increasingly aware of a very strong police presence throughout the city.  Unusual.

We speculated as to the cause and realized that Sunday is September 11. Everything that day symbolizes remains strong and clear ten years later and we wondered if that was the reason for the seeming increase in security visibility. We thought about the windows in the Twin Towers. How life can change in a fraction of a second.

We reminded each other that none of the horror or heroism of that day will ever be forgotten. We wondered if the world will ever truly be at peace. Everyone, every day, must work towards that goal.


Tourrettes Sur Loup

If It’s Friday, It Must Be France …

Buckle up and keep your camera ready! The drive to the medieval village of Tourrettes Sur Loup is breathtaking. Only 14 kilometres from the Côte D’Azur, it’s easy to reach and might be combined with a visit to St. Paul De Vence. Much smaller than St. Paul and far less touristy, we like to take visitors there. If you approach from the west, the moment you come around the last corner takes my breath away every time.

I can’t tell you the number of photos I’ve taken of this view. Different times of day, changing seasons, sunny, cloudy, any excuse makes it simply irresistible to my shutter mania.

Established in the 11th C, the natural setting created the fortification of the town. How did they build those towns? All by hand … it boggles my mind. The 12th C church is built on the site of a Roman temple. Don’t miss it!

The village isn’t overloaded with shops (click here for a complete list and the town’s official site … in French, but you can figure it out) and their products are truly artisanal. Le Bois D’Olivier is our favourite with beautiful olive wood products produced by hand since the 1950’s by the Dubosq family (father and now son). Simply walking into their shop is a buzz! I love the warm shades and textures of olive wood. I haven’t seen better prices or finer work anywhere. (Trust me, I’ve looked at way too much olive wood!)

Further along La Grande Rue you will find Poterie La Bergerie‘s awesome cave-like atelier where delicate ceramics are crafted and hand-painted with violet motifs.

You’ll want to pop into many of the other shops as you stroll through. Tourrettes Sur Loup has been famous for the cultivation of violets since the 1880’s.  The locally well-known Fête de Violettes is celebrated every March.

Walk down to the bottom of the village to find a panoramic view past a Roman aqueduct right down to the coast. When you’ve filled your camera chip, have a fine meal at La Médiéval, where the friendly owner fills a glass of rosé like I’ve never seen before. Check to make sure it’s open before you go.

I’ve attached a video below that gives you a bit of a tour through the village. It also shows how the Dubosq men work their magic with the olive wood.

It’s a long video so pour yourself a glass of wine and enjoy!

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Le travail du bois d’olivier. Saladier artisanal…dubosqguillaume

Cocteau, the Cap de Nice walk and … ooops …

If it’s Friday, it must be France …

It was the best of times. It was the worst of … well, okay, not the worst ever but the air did turn a certain shade of bleu (not a typo, we are in France after all). It turned out I hadn’t researched this walk quite as well as I thought! Ever had one of those days?

We’ve been taking the train a lot here as the station is literally a  three minute walk from our little bit of heaven in Antibes. Our French friends tell us the trains are unreliable so I guess we’ve been lucky since they’ve really been working for us. We did learn to pick our times because in July and August the late afternoon trains can be jampacked with tourists, dogs, bikes, strollers not to mention the locals just trying to get home from work. Never mind … I’m getting off topic … as I easily do …

So my DH (dear husband) and I hopped on a train to Villefranche-Sur-Mer, another beautiful spot 30 minutes along the coast (with a great beach) that we visit often. To my surprise he had suggested he would walk a sentier with me and we thought this one would be perfect. He has a bad back so has to pick and choose what sort of walking he does. Stairs are not the best thing. Everything I read about this path made it sound like a good one for him. Gorgeous day! Perfect! We had our drinking water and our spritzer spray water bottles with us. (Do you know about these for walking on hot days? They are the best – great for kids too. You can make your own.)

Walking through town to the start of the sentier, we stopped in at La Chapelle St.-Pierre, which had been closed several times when we had been by before (Mondays). Dating from the 16thC, it fell into disrepair and had been used to store fishermen’s nets and stuff for about 200 years. In the mid-1950’s, it was restored and artist Jean Cocteau (a native of the area) created a magnificent homage on the walls and ceiling to fishermen and their patron saint. It’s a gem. A remarkable display of his talent. No photos are allowed inside but if you click here, I found a site with some. 

We walked past the Citadelle, along another beach, through a marina, looked lost, received unsolicited directions from a very nice French fellow, and were on our way. The scenery was outstanding as usual, red rocks, azure sea, aromatic shrubs and trees. Cicadas were buzzing. It was hot. But we were happy because it was not a long walk so we would be fine. There were a few more spots with stairs than we had anticipated but then the path would continue. We sipped and we spritzed. It was hot.

We looked down to see scuba boats anchored and from time to time kayakers would appear. It really was a perfect day for all this sort of activity. We wished

we had brought bathing suits. Gentle breezes would waft up from the sea from time to time. Oh, and there were a few most spots with stairs … quite a few … I commented on how impressive the French were about maintaining these trails and building stairs so hikers didn’t have to scale rocks any more. DH’s responses were fewer and shorter. Did I mention it was hot?

After two hours, passing four other sweat-drenched hikers going the opposite way, we came around a bend and there was Nice … in the distance.




I wondered aloud if I had somehow read about an entirely different sentier. There was a muffled response from DH. Then suddenly … the path ended abruptly and …

that’s when the air turned BLEU!  DH was not impressed.

Merde! This apparently was the end of our little hike along the Cap de Nice.

I’ve since read that there is a similar walk along the rocks going towards Villefranche from the Old Port in Nice but the two have not been linked. It is possible to combine the two walks but it does involve these and other stairs.

This photo shows the first part of the stairs. They did go on …

When we arrived at the top we were on a palm-tree lined street in a lovely part of east Nice and I thought the name of the bus stop was quite appropriate!  DH even laughed!

Part of my attempts to inject enthusiasm into the hike when another set of stairs appeared, was to remind DH that we were going to have lunch at one of his favourite restaurants when we finished our hike. We took the bus to the Old Port and walked down the street to Les Pins D’Alep, discussing what our order would be. DH began getting a bit edgy when we noticed the tables and chairs normally outside were missing. Don’t tell me … he said …


Closed all of August for holidays … and so we laughed. I thought I was going to have an accident right there. OMG, we laughed. What else can you do? Then we walked around the corner and had a delicious lunch and some nice cold beer somewhere else. It always works out.

What do you do when things don’t play out quite the way you planned? Do you have a meltdown or can you find the humour in the situation?  I find a little of the former and a lot of the latter works best for me.

Which route would you choose?

If it’s Friday, it must be France …

Cycling is a big part of European culture. I’m not talking about biking home from work or over to visit with a friend. I’m talking serious, strenuous biking over long distances that often includes steep mountain roads full of challenging switchbacks.

Certainly in France, at any time on any day, you are likely to see men or women on high-performance bikes in colorful gear heading somewhere. I’m always amazed when we are driving to some remote hilltop village (on a road we thought was a challenge to drive!) and we pass incredibly fit cyclists near the summit. We are in awe – truly!

Le Tour De France , held for three weeks every July, is one of the most famous international sporting events.  For years from the mid-1990’s, it was often referred to as the Tour De Lance as American Lance Armstrong dominated the winner’s podium, winning a record seven times! The cyclists cover 3500 kilometres or 2200 miles crossing every type of terrain imaginable. The start location changes each year but the race traditionally ends with a celebratory ride up the Champs-Élysées in Paris.

First held in 1903 as a publicity stunt, Le Tour has continued ever since with few exceptions. The 2011 race was the 98th time the race was held. Cadel Evans became the first Australian to win the title.

I love to cycle but I have to admit flatter stretches appeal more to me! Biking along a canal or through vineyards, taking in the scenery, and stopping for a delicious lunch or packing a picnic is right up my alley this summer.

Cycling is a great way to spend time as a family too. The bad news is that head injuries account for 25% of all bicycle-related accidents. Each province in Canada has its own laws about bicycle helmets as I’m sure is the case in the U.S.A. too.  Doesn’t it just make sense to always wear a helmet, obey traffic rules, and be sure your equipment is kept in good order?

Happy cycling and stay safe!

Typical of sports fans all over the world, there are always those who show their enthusiasm in unique ways. The video below spotlights some of those fans along with some humorous incidents along the route of Le Tour De France.
Footage from over the years of some of the more light-hearted moments in the competition

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Tour de France: The funny bits – video | Sport …, posted with vodpod

Cycling up steep mountain roads isn’t for everyone though. How do you challenge yourself through sports – as a participant, a fan, or both?  Leave a comment below if you like.

You can enlarge the photos by clicking on them and clicking the highlighted words takes you to more information. Thanks for visiting my blog!

Literature, lavender and lunch – part 2

If it’s Friday, it must be France!

Friday again! It seems to come around faster every week. Ok, I got so caught up in the excitement of the literary history on the Côte D’Azur last Friday that I didn’t get to the other two subjects in my title.

So now it’s on to lavender! Last week we rented a car and drove 2-1/2 hours north to the Valensole area of Provence. We were a little late for the full lavender whammy as the harvest had begun the week before. However, as you can see from my photos, there were still many fields in bloom so we weren’t disappointed. But here’s my word of advice about that: if you want to see the incredibly beautiful effect of the lavender fields in their full glory, go the first week of July. When you open the car windows or step outside, to take way too many photos, the fragrance in the air is amazing!

Of course when you have lavender, you have bees (they’re not interested in you, by the way) and many farms have apiaries to make their own lavender honey. They also often craft their own soaps, candles, and dried lavender products. I have one word for lavender honey – DIVINE!  When we popped into one small farm, they were just putting the fresh honey into jars and offered tastes with great pride. We stocked up!

I have to admit I was never a big lavender fan, although I always loved the look of  the plant, but after this experience I’ve become a convert. The true fragrance is so pure and sweet. There are also the holistic and aromatherapy benefits to lavender which are many. I had a moment of wishing I still lived in a house with a garden so I could plant some myself. Maybe I’ll try a plant on my condo terrace next summer and see what happens. I did see lots of  lavender in pots but suspect they had been there through many winters. Somehow I don’t think that will happen in Toronto!

When you google lavender, there’s a ton of information. You will find some really interesting sites. I’m including a video here that gives excellent information about growing your own lavender. Take a look!

Click here for the video which I couldn’t get to embed after a bizillion attempts!

And now on to lunch! We drove to the beautiful (it’s hard to find other words for these places …) village of Moustieres-Ste.-Marie which we have visited on previous trips.

In the past, we’ve had some fine meals at a small restaurant there and looked forward to another visit. Yikes! Not going to happen! There were tourists everywhere and the walk to the nearest available parking spot was better suited for a mountain goat. We drove straight through the village and tried to control our whining.  Then, voila! Just a few minutes out of town we saw a most inviting sign and quickly pulled in to the Restaurant Ferme Ste.-Cecile. The setting was pastoral and the cuisine was “gastronomique”, specializing in local products and surprisingly reasonably priced. Between the main course and dessert, the chef sent out a serving of perfectly aged chèvre accompanied by a tiny bowl of lavender honey. Bonus! Don’t you love it when a disappointment turns into something unexpectedly wonderful?

Are you a fan of lavender? Do you grow it in your garden? Have you tasted lavender honey? If you have any tips to share with readers about lavender or about your own travel surprises, please add a comment. It’s always so rewarding to receive them!

Literature, Lunch and Lavender – part one

If it’s Friday, it must be France …

Talk about a good story! The literary history along the south coast of France is tough to match.

Poets and scribes from the Roman Empire told of the beauty of Antipolis, now Antibes. In later centuries writers began visiting the Riviera for the beauty, the sea,  the solitude or the company of other writers, as far back as the Italian poet Dante Alighieri  in the 13th century. Petrarch, John Milton and Michel Nostradamus were just some of the earlier men of letters who created their timeless works along this coast.

Tobias Smollett penned what is considered the first “travel” book for this area in 1763. Nietsche found inspiration in the 1880’s for some of his work as he walked the ancient donkey and goat paths here (see my earlier post). In the 1920’s F. Scott Fitzgerald was among those writers who ushered the Jazz Age to the area. In the 1980’s, Graham Greene wrote J’Accuse, opening up investigations into organized crime and politics in the area. Most came for inspiration. Others came to seek the fabulous weather and local colour, to gamble, to escape taxes or social ostracism.

The trend continues as witnessed by the “Local Authors” table in Heidi’s English Bookshop  from my post last Friday. I’ve already had the pleasure of meeting one of the writers in that group, Patty Knight from Boston. She writes under the pen name of Adora Bennett for Genesis Press and comes to Antibes for inspiration whenever it’s possible. I’m looking forward to meeting many of the others. Whether a writer with an established name or a fresh voice on the scene, the search for inspiration here is never ending.

Named for one of Antibes’ most revered sons , the Prix Jacques Audiberti de la Ville d’Antibes, worth 50,000 francs to the laureate,  honours a writer with a special interest in the Mediterranean.

Ted Jones, a British freelance writer, who lives in the south of France has written The French Riviera: A Literary Guide for Travellers. It’s an informed and entertaining book covering writers from  Graham Greene and W. Somerset Maugham who lived here,  to those writers whose work this area dominates, such as F. Scott Fitzgerald and Guy de Maupassant, to those who simply lingered there. His comprehensive work covers them all, including: Louisa M. Alcott, Hans Christian Andersen, J.G. Ballard, Simone de Beauvoir, Bertholt Brecht, Albert Camus, Casanova, Bruce Chatwin, Joseph Conrad, Charles Dickens, Vladimir Nabakov, T.S. Eliot, Andre Gide,  Ernest Hemingway, Gertrude Stein, Virginia Woolf, Victor Hugo, James Joyce,and countless others. Not only do you get the buzz on the authors and how they lived and were inspired here, it’s also an excellent travel guide to the area.

Albert Camus, who spent many years living in Le Cannett, once said: “Writers come here for the easy life but the beauty of the Côte inspires them to new literary heights!”

To experience the literary Riviera read what Ted Jones has to say and then go back to the books of these great authors.

We’ve rented a car for the day so better hit the road … so many places, so little time. I’ll save the Lunch and Lavender parts for next Friday.

What inspires you? Have you read many novels set on the Côte D’Azur? If you have a favourite, I would love to hear about it!

À bientôt!