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Le jour de gloire, c'est bien arrivé!

January 12th, 2009.

Or, as we might say en anglais, the day of glory has indeed arrived! So break out le tricolore -- in case you didn't already know it, we're about to become an international celebrity!

Walhalla was recently chosen as a featured destination for one of French TV's biggest lifestyle and tourism shows, "Echappées Belles", or "Beautiful Escapes" -- think of it as their version of "Postcards", "Getaway", or similar programs on Australian TV. It's an hour-long show, presented by the very lovely Sophie Jovillard (below), which is broadcast at 8:40 pm on Saturdays, and re-broadcast on Sunday mornings at 10:45 am.

Recent episodes have included visits to the Canary Islands, Portugal, and Acadie (the French colony in Nova Scotia, Canada, which incidentally gave us both the word "arcadian" and its swamp cousin, "cajun"). Other destinations have included Sweden, San Francisco, Hong Kong, South Africa, Berlin, Argentina, China, Ireland, Tokyo, New York, Abu Dhabi, Vietnam, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Jordan, Mexico, Mongolia, Las Vegas, Louisiana ... and more, so as you can see, we're travelling in some very esteemed company!

Let's go!

The show's Sunday re-broadcast recently achieved its largest audience since it began (barely more than two years ago, on September 30th, 2006), when it was seen by more than 800,000 viewers, or more than 10% of the prime viewing audience, among some 18 competing channels.

La belle Sophie

La belle Sophie

(If you think your French is up to it, you might like to take a look at the show's website -- to do so, just click here.)

Through the combined efforts of Australian federal and state government tourism authorities, and with some additional prodding from the Walhalla and Mountain Rivers Tourism Association, it was arranged that they'd come to Australia in early December to record segments in Sydney, the Blue Mountains, Melbourne and at Walhalla.

A flurry of international phone calls and emails followed in the fortnight leading up to their visit as agendas and story-lines were developed, revised, discarded and re-invented, and on December 3rd, two separate teams duly arrived, in the company of an eager team of local escorts. The first team took an extensive tour of the Long Tunnel Extended Mine in the capable hands of tour guide Gus, visited the Corner Store and its Museum, and then went on to climb the hill to the cemetery in the company of Michael Leaney from the Star Hotel.

Arriving in Walhalla a little later, following a dawn balloon ride over Melbourne, the show's star presenter, a very gracious, petite and très charmante Sophie Jovillard (that's her, to the left, in a reflective mood), took a town walk with John Aldersea, local historian, author and occasional tour guide. When last seen as daylight began to fade, John was introducing Sophie to the delicate skills and intricate art of panning for gold, ankle-deep in Stringer's Creek near the helipad to the south of the bridge at the Post Office. We're not sure whether or not they found anything of value, but if they did, there would certainly have been an agreement in place to start with about how any spoils were to be distributed!

The weather, which we know can sometimes be a bit fickle in Walhalla, cooperated very obligingly with the recording crews' requirements, and what went into the can should be screening in France towards the end of January, 2009. Judging by Walhalla's natural beauty, its intrinsically fascinating history, and the extremely professional efforts of the crew, the day's activities should result in a strikingly memorable show.

And if even just one-tenth of one percent of the show's viewers are prompted to think, "Zut alors! That looks pretty darned très jolie!", ... well, maybe we should all be brushing up on our "plume de ma tante" in anticipation of a rush of gallic visitors.

Setting up at the Star Hotel

Hollywood-on-the-Seine comes to the Star Hotel

Viewers of French TV are apparently very big fans of sunglasses.

Photojournalist Yann frames a shot of our valley

Ready when you are, CB!

Photojournalist Yann frames a shot for the show.

Gus gets wired

Gus gets mic'd for the Long Tunnel Extended Mine tour video segment

Yes, but wait -- the French think Gérard Depardieu is a handsome guy ....

In the LTX machinery chamber

Gus in guide mode, in the LTX Mine machinery chamber

It's probably best if you stay out of the dark corners ...

Follow this link to the show's website after the end of January 2009, and if you click on the link that reads "L'émission de la semaine en vidéo" (this week's show on video), you may be able to download the show itself. If that fails, check back here from time to time to see whether we're able to set up a link on this site.

Vive la France!




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