Friday in Five, live from Provence 2

20 Aug

Villeneuve-les-Avignon street art 3

This week’s Friday in Five comes from the thoroughly charming village of Villeneuve-les-Avignon in Provence, where I’ve been privileged to stay while travelling through some of France’s most beautiful southern districts.

Provence is already famous for so many things: wine, food, history, culture.

For me, though, the memories are more personal.

 

 

 

IMG_2525Driving on the ‘wrong’ side of the road, on the ‘wrong’ side of the car for the first time, I found myself dodging other cars, cyclists and surely-lunatic runners on an unspeakably narrow route all the way up Mont Ventoux, otherwise known as the Beast of Provence.

My reward? Views all the way to heaven, the realisation life can still surprise me, and… bonbons!IMG_2517

 

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Then there was Carcassonne, one of Europe’s most famed and best preserved medieval cities, overrun by tourists and sweating with late-summer fervour. Knights jousted in the tiltyard, and the charismatic and supremely knowledgeable Jean-Francois Vassal gave insights into the life of a thirteenth century knight.

But the real magic happened at dawn, before the hordes returned…
Carcassonne at dawn 2Carcassonne at dawn

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Carcassonne at dawn 3

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In Orange, there was a Roman theatre, built early in the first century AD and survivor of Christian disapproval, Visigoths, wars, fire andencroaching housing developments. In the awe stakes, its scale was matched only by its acoustics.

Theatre Antique d'Orange 5, 10816

 

And behind the theatre, the Orange markets were rich with colour, noise, flowers, cheeses, spices, bags, garlic, and fresh truffles – another first on a trip full of firsts.

Orange market bagsOrange Market garlic

 

 

 

 

 

 

Truffles from Orange, 180816

 

Finally, Avignon.

Papal palace from Villeneuve-les-AvignonRomantic city of legend and intrigue, capital city of Christendom in the Middle Ages, its immense fortress-cum-palace, the Palais des Papes, soars above its ancient walls.
On a scorching summer day, the small, private studium where successive Popes read and reflected must have been a welcome relief from both the pomp and the oppressive heat.

 

 

Tomorrow I return to Paris, City of Light, City of Love, my favourite city on this wondrous planet.

Meantime, I’d love to hear what you’re loving this week! Drop me a line or leave a comment? I’m always happy to share!

Au revoir!

Gracie x

And the winners are…

22 Jul

PackshotA huge drumroll, please, for the winners of the “Eye in the Sky” DVD competition!

Congratulations to:

Judith Maunders
Mardi Chapman
Stella McLeod

Congratulations! You should already have an email from me with details of how to collect your prize.

To those who didn’t win, my commiserations – and also my encouragement! This is such a great movie, well worth the investment, and available now on Blu-ray, DVD and Digital. Don’t miss the chance to see it!

Thanks for reading, following and entering, and have a glorious weekend. I’ll be back next week with more Friday in Five!

Gracie x

Win “Eye in the Sky” – just need to reply!

15 Jul

PackshotSorry for the cheesy headline: I couldn’t help myself!

I’m so excited to be able to offer you the chance to win your very own copy of this year’s sleeper-thriller flick, Eye in the Sky. I have three DVD copies available to Australian readers, and all you have to do is enter a reply in the comments below.

Winners will be selected at random. I’ll keep comments private for now in case of spambots but I’ll publish the respectable comments, along with winners’ names, here on this blog next Friday, 22 July. So let your movie-loving friends know, too, because you and they have a week to enter!

Now, what’s all the fuss about?

You might recall I blogged about this little beauty a few weeks back.

Colonel Katherine Powell (Helen Mirren) in a scene from EYE IN THE SKY, directed by Gavin Hood. In cinemas 24 March 2016. An Entertainment One Films release. For more information contact Claire Fromm: cfromm@entonegroup.com

Colonel Katherine Powell (Helen Mirren) in a scene from EYE IN THE SKY, directed by Gavin Hood. In cinemas 24 March 2016. An Entertainment One Films release. For more information contact Claire Fromm: cfromm@entonegroup.com

Colonel Katherine Powell (Helen Mirren) leads a secret drone mission to capture a terrorist group living in a safehouse in Nairobi, Kenya. When Powell learns that the group plans to carry out a suicide attack, her objective is changed to kill the terrorists. Drone pilot Steve Watts (Aaron Paul) targets the safehouse for destruction but reports a nine-year-old girl entering the kill zone. Powell contacts politicians and lawyers to determine whether or not to take action.

This simple synopsis doesn’t begin to convey the complexity, intrigue and edge-of-your-seat tension packed into 100-odd minutes of fantastic filmmaking. Helen Mirren‘s taut, ruthless, edgy performance is balanced by a finely-nuanced and brilliantly restrained performance from Alan Rickman, in one of his last movies.

Lieutenant General Frank Benson (Alan Rickman) in a scene from EYE IN THE SKY, directed by Gavin Hood. In cinemas 24 March 2016. An Entertainment One Films release. For more information contact Claire Fromm: cfromm@entonegroup.com

Lieutenant General Frank Benson (Alan Rickman) in a scene from EYE IN THE SKY, directed by Gavin Hood. In cinemas 24 March 2016. An Entertainment One Films release. For more information contact Claire Fromm: cfromm@entonegroup.com

Iain Glen produces a terrific departure from his Game of Thrones character, in a scene providing one of the few lighter-hearted moments of this gripping tale of ethics, politics, risk and courage. The cast is rounded out by Barkhad Abdi (Captain Phillips) and Aaron Paul (Breaking Bad).

It’s a movie that had me talking for days afterwards, with my son, with my father, with my friends and colleagues, about the choices we’re lucky never to have to make – and how we judge those who do.

EYE IN THE SKY is available on Blu-ray, DVD and Digital from July 20. Or you can reply in the comments below for your chance to win one of three copies for Australian readers. Get to it! And pop back here next Friday to see if you’ve won!

Gracie x

Friday in Five: Vivid edition!

27 May

Got five minutes? Or maybe even ten? Here are some of the spectacular and wonderful things I’ve loved this week, brought to you from Sydney.

Awww of the week

o-BABY-GIRAFFE-facebookI spent the day at Taronga Zoo on Sydney Harbour and overdosed on cute! Penguins, wombats, sea-lions, meerkats… but still, the cutest sight of the week has to be the baby giraffe born at Taronga’s Western Plains zoo. How’s this for cute? (Also, kind of messy, but you’ll get past that!)

Song of the week

Gurrumul and KellyThis has been out for a few months now, but I’ve only just discovered it. Legendary Australian songwriter Paul Kelly joins equally legendary and soulful Australian indigenous singer Geoffrey Gurrumul Yunupingu, who sings in the Yolngu language, in an exquisite rendering of Amazing Grace. Close your eyes and breathe it in.

Quote of the week

Don't cling to a mistake just because you spent a lot of time making it.

Person of the week

nicholas negroponteIn the work I do when I’m not writing romance, I have the privilege of quite often hearing wonderful insights and ideas from amazing people. This week was one of those weeks when I was surrounded by ideas, courtesy of the World Business Forum Sydney. The best of them was from a man I’ve admired for a very long time – Nicholas Negroponte, founder of MIT’s Media Lab and also the One Laptop Per Child project, which influenced provision of over 50 million – that’s million – laptops to help educate the world’s poorest children.

Negroponte has had lots of amazing ideas over the years, but the one I loved this week was this: “connect the last billion people” by establishing a constellation of low earth-orbiting satellites, beyond the jurisdiction of any country. Why? Because access to the internet should be a human right and a civic responsibility, and if you assume that kids are our most precious natural resource and that education is the key to developing that resource for the good of everybody, then it just. Makes. Sense.

Negroponte costs such an initiative at $10 billion – that’s billion. That’s a lot of money. That amount of money would fund the US’s operations in Afghanistan for… oh, around five weeks. It would fund Australia’s illegal detention of 25 asylum seekers for a full year. So, you know… priorities.

Views of the week

Finally, here are the Vivid views I promised! I took a harbour dinner cruise with Vagabond Cruises and between scoffing canapes and quaffing bubbles managed to snap a few of the views I loved best. Hope you enjoy the Vivid colour and magic!

What have you loved this week? Drop me a line!

Gracie x

Normal transmission will resume shortly…

26 May

What a fabulous week I’ve had! I’m in beautiful Sydney, partly for my Other Life work but also to see Vivid in all its spectacle and finery. Lighting-the-Sails-SONGLINES

So I’ve got lots to share, but I’ll be a little late sharing it tomorrow because I want to bring you the best of the Vivid Festival Opening Night. I’m going to quite some trouble to capture some great views for you (I know! After all this enthusiasm, it’d better be good, right?!). darling harbour

 

So check in tomorrow night for some great music, a quote and a person that have really changed my thinking, a bit of cute and a lot of light and colour!

 

Vivid Sydney celebrating the Doctor's 50th anniversary! - Imgur(These are some photos from previous Vivids to whet your appetite!)

 

‘Til then…

Gracie x

Friday in Five

20 May

Got five minutes? Here’s what I’ve loved this week…

Book of the week

The Wife's TaleChristine Wells is a Brisbane author to date most famous for writing delicious historical romance novels under the pen name of Christina Brooke. Her new novel, The Wife’s Tale, combines the best of her historical romance writing skill with contemporary drama, a fascinating mystery and some very poignant commentary on the lot of women – even wealthy, talented, intelligent and feisty women – in 18th century England. Christine’s pre-novelist profession as a lawyer lends terrific authenticity to her courtroom scenes. There’s intrigue, pathos and romance aplenty. I confess I wasn’t much taken with the premise – ‘An unforgettable novel that transports the reader from modern day Australia to the windswept Isle of Wight and the courtrooms of London in the 1780s’. If I hadn’t enjoyed her historical romances so much, I might not have read it at all. But my word, I loved it!

Idea of the weekC'est une merveille

How I love this! An inveterate quitter of foreign language classes, I’ve failed my way now through several language apps and am finally feeling very slightly less incompetent in French after several months on Memrise. But even with my determination to learn to converse in a language other than my own, the cleverness and elegance of this little device – a translating earpiece – fills me with awe. How simple! How obvious! How wonderful, to think we could break down barriers so easily. Sign me up!

 

Pretty of the week

sculptureIsn’t she beautiful?! And not just because her creators are French! Sophie Mouton-Perrat and Frédéric Guibrunet make these graceful, life-size papier-mâché lamps. You can see more on their website here. I’ll be keeping my eyes wide open for them on my next trip to Paris!

 

epiphanot

Word of the week

Epiphanot. (n) an idea that seems like an amazing insight to the conceiver but is in fact pointless, mundane, stupid, or incorrect. I’m afraid I have epiphonots all the time, but at least now I know what I’m doing! More clever new words here.

 

And, sadly, a farewell this week…

Gillian Mears

Award-winning Australian author Gillian Mears died this week. A long-time sufferer of multiple sclerosis, she nevertheless produced Foal’s Bread, shortlisted for the Miles Franklin award and winner of the Prime Minister’s Literary Award in 2012. It’s a stunning book, and I’m sorry we’ll have no more of her work to savour. Rest easy, Gillian.  Photo credit: Angela Wylie

 

Hope you’ve had a fabulous week! Would love to hear what you’ve loved…

Gracie x

Friday in Five

13 May

Got five minutes? Here’s what I’ve loved most this week.

Pic of the week

refugee crisisOh my word. Where would we be as a feeling, caring race without the dedication of photojournalists? Sergey Ponomarev took this extraordinary image for The New York Times, just one of the images that led to the NYT and Thomson Reuters sharing the Pulitzer Photography Prize for coverage of Europe’s refugee crisis. It’s increasingly difficult for Australian journalists to tell stories of the refugees and asylum seekers in this country – our detention centres are closed to the media under legislation passed in 2015. But as a nation of immigrants, the memories of dislocation and of sacrifice to create new hope and opportunities for our children are never too far below the surface of our collective conscience. And that’s why work like this is so important.

Person of the week

noniMuch-loved and respected Australian actor and story-teller Noni Hazlehurst joined the Logies Hall of Fame this week, and gave a magnificent speech covering mental health, asylum seekers, bigotry, technology, violence… and at the heart of it all, a plea to remember our humanity.

It’s a little over 10 minutes long, but well worth watching.

Smash of the week!
flat white

Fellow blogger Servetus wrote last week in praise of Australia’s predilection for a coffee pick-me-up we call a flat white. What’s a flat white? It’s basically steamed milk over espresso, and the trick is in the foam. Too much creamy froth and you end up with a latte, which nobody here can be really bothered with – or not in my part of the world, at least! And if the base coffee is good to start with (and really, why would you bother if it’s not), then two shots under that creamy foam will set you up nicely for the day.

avo smashAnd to accompany it? Another great Australian epicurean invention – the avocado smash. My favourite breakfast place is Kitchen@Buderim, where the delightful and far-too-witty-for-early-mornings Edwina smashes my avocado with macadamia nuts and roasted corn kernels, lime and coriander. Fresh, healthy, amazing texture and absolutely delicious! It’s hard on the heels of flat whites for shaking up American breakfast habits, and I couldn’t be more proud!

Reviews of the week

And here’s something else I’m personally proud of this week: some sparkly new reviews for A Case for Trust! Thanks so much for reading, and for taking the time to write honest reviews.

“Whilst still shadowing the traditional romance novel formula, this book brings a lot more depth and a touch of suspense to the story which is very refreshing. The characters are very believable with natural flaws but they don’t stop you liking them, which is essential for me. On top of this it is beautifully written with a natural flow and style.”

“Gracie MacGregor is one talented writer – I consider myself a bit of an expert in this genre… mostly in terms of volume – because I have read virtually any and all of these kinds of books that I can get my hands on and there are definitely good ones that leave you wanting more and the rest that leave you wanting more, but not in a good way!!! This was a cracker. The only thing I didn’t love was that I read it on my phone as I am still old fashioned and don’t have a tablet…”

What have you loved this week? I’d love to hear about it.

Gracie x

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