Texte de Bill Bryson


« I was in Macksville owing to the interesting discovery that Brisbane is not three or four hours north of Sydney, as I had long and casually supposed, but the better part of a couple of days' drive. Well, if you look on the television weather map Brisbane and Sydney are practically neighbours, their little local suns and storm clouds all but bumping on the chart. But in Australia neighbourliness is of course a relative concept. In fact, it is almost 1,000 kilometres from Sydney to Brisbane, much of it along a cheerfully poky(1) two-lane road. And so, in mildly confounded consequence, I was in Macksville for the night. My mood as I strolled into town from my motel was, let us say, restrained. Macksville wasn't so bad really. Set on the bank of the swift and muddy Nambucca River, it was essentially just a pause in the highway: a tentacle of neatly gardened bungalows and small office buildings leading to a very compact town centre. Though the road through town is the Pacific Higway, the main artery connecting Sydney and Brisbane, only two cars passed as I followed its dusty margin into town. At the heart of the modest community stood the large and fading Nambucca Hotel, and I stepped in, glad to escape the heat. It was a roomy place but nearly empty. Two older guys in singlets and battered bush hats propped up one end of the long bar. In a side room a man and a woman sat in silent absorption amid the soft, mechanical glow of pokies(2). I procured a beer, stood long enough to establish that no one was going to take any interest in me that might lead to a conversation, and retired to the central portion of the bar where I parked myself on a stool and idly watched the evening news on a silent TV mounted on the wall. According to a sign on a door across the room, the Nambucca had a restaurant, so I wandered over to investigate. The door wouldn't open. "Dining room's closed, mate," said one of the two guys at the bar. "Chef's crook." "Must've ate some of his own cooking," came a voice from the pokie alcove, and we all had a grin over that. "What else is there in town?" I asked. "Depends," said the man, scratching his throat thoughtfully. He leaned towards me slightly. "You like good food?" I nodded. Of course I did. "Nothin' then." He went back to his beer. "Try the Chinese over the road," said his companion. "It's not too bad." The Chinese restaurant was just across the road as promised, but according to a sign in the window it was not licensed to serve alcohol and I couldn't face smalltown Chinese food without the solace of beer. I have travelled enough to know that a chef does not, as a rule, settle in a place like Macksville because he has a lifelong yearning to share the subtleties of 3,500 years of Szechuan cuisine with sheep farmers. So I went off to see what else there might be in Macksville's compact heart. The answer was very little. Everything appeared to be shut except one small takeaway establishment called, not altogether promisingly, Bub's Hotbakes. I opened the door, briefly enlivening 5,000 flies that had dropped by to see what Bub and his team were up to, and stepped inside, knowing in my heart that this was almost certainly going to be a regretted experience. Bub's had a substantial range of food, nearly all of it involving brown meat and gravy lurking inside pastry. I ordered a large sausage roll and chips. "We don't do chips," said the amply proportioned serving maiden(3). "Then how did you get like that?" I wanted to say, but of course I suppressed this unworthy thought and revised my order to a large sausage roll and something called a "continental cheesecake square" and went with them outside. I ate standing on the corner. »
Adapted fromBill Bryson, Down Under, 2001

1. Which genre do you associate this passage with?
  • travel literature;
  • science-fiction;
  • romance.
Focus on paragraph 1.
a) What country is the scene set in? (10 words maximum)
b) Justify your answer with two quotations from the text.
c) What is the starting point of the main character's journey? (10 words max.)
d) What is the destination of the journey? (10 words max.)
e) What does the main character discover about the country? (15 words)
f) Justify your answer with one quotation.
g) Name the town where the main character is.
Concentrate on the passage "Set on the bank… escape the heat."
a) Pick out the most suitable definition for the town from the list below:
  • a town in the suburbs of a big city;
  • a town with a busy centre;
  • a small isolated town between two large cities;
  • an unwelcoming community.
b) Give two elements to justify your choice.
Read the whole text again.
a) Where does the main character stay for the night? (10 words max.)
b) Which part of town does he decide to go to? (10 words max.)
c) What is the main character looking for? (10 words max.)
d) Pick out five words or phrases to support your answer.
e) Three establishments are mentioned. Name them in chronological order.
f) Which two places does the main character actually stop at?
Focus on the first place he stops at.
a) Who are the characters present? (20 words max.)
b) What is the atmosphere like? Explain in your own words. (25 words max.)
c) "Must've ate some of his own cooking": who does his refer to?
d) In standard English, a "crook" is a dishonest person. In this context, does "chef's crook" mean:
  • the chef is absent?
  • the chef is hungry?
  • the chef is sick?
  • the chef is unemployed?
e) What is the tone of the remark: "Must've ate some of his own cooking"? (10 words max.)
Focus on the second place he stops at.
a) Why does he choose to go there? Explain in your own words. (25 words max.)
b) "… this was almost certainly going to be a regretted experience".
Why does he feel this way? Give two reasons in your own words. (20 words)
Les candidats de la série S choisiront de traiter l'un des deux sujets au choix (200 mots).
Les candidats de la série L devront obligatoirement traiter les deux sujets (300 mots au total, soit environ 150 mots pour chaque sujet).
1. Takeaway food is becoming more and more popular. Account for this evolution in contemporary society.
2. Write about a place you regretted going to.
Seuls les candidats de la série L réaliseront cet exercice.
Traduire en français le passage allant de "What else…" à "… too bad."
(1)Poky : (adj.) too small or not very comfortable.
(2)A poky : (noun) a poker machine.
(3)A serving maiden : a waitress.


1. This passage can be associated with travel literature.
a) The scene is set in Australia.
b) "… Brisbane is not three or four hours north of Sydney."
"But in Australia neighbourliness is of course a relative concept."
c) The starting point of the main character's journey is Sydney.
d) The destination of the journey is Brisbane.
e) The main character discovers that distances in Australia are much longer than what he thought.
f) "But in Australia neighbourliness is of course a relative concept. In fact, it is almost 1,000 kilometres from Sydney to Brisbane."
g) The main character is in Macksville.
a) A small isolated town between two large cities.
b) "It was essentially just a pause in the highway."
"Only two cars passed as I followed its dusty margin into town."
a) The main character stays in a motel for the night.
b) He decides to go to the town centre, to the Nambucca Hotel.
c) He is looking for a restaurant, at least a place where he can have dinner and drink.
d) "… the Nambucca had a restaurant, so I wandered over to investigate."
"What else is there in town? I asked."
"You like good food? I nodded. Of course I did."
"Try the Chinese over the road, said his companion. It's not too bad."
"So I went off to see what else there might be… one small takeaway establishment… I opened the door…"
e) The establishments which are mentioned are: first, The Nambucca Hotel, then, the Chinese restaurant and finally Bub's hotbakes, the takeaway.
f) The main character stops at the Nambucca Hotel and Bub's hotbakes, the takeaway.
a) When he stops at the first place, two older men and a couple are present.
b) The atmosphere there is gloomy, dull and depressing since the hotel is an old one that is decaying. Moreover, there are not many people and in addition, they are not very talkative even cheerless.
c) his refers to the cook/chef of the Nambucca Hotel.
d) "chef's crook" means the chef is sick.
e) The tone is ironical, sarcastic and satirical.
a) He chooses to go there, first, because the restaurant of the Nambucca hotel is closed, then because the Chinese restaurant doesn't serve alcohol at all.
b) He feels pessimistic, as when he enters the takeaway he notices that it is infested with flies, moreover he is quite certain he won't enjoy the food he is going to be served.
1. Nowadays, takeaway food is becoming more and more popular as well as fast food restaurants. In the past it was normal in a family to spend time to prepare dinner in the evening, which was often done by the mothers who did not work outside. Things have changed, and as more and more women work, we can understand that when they come back home after a hard day's work they do not wish to devote so much time to cooking something.
Moreover, there are more and more people who live alone and it is not really exciting to cook when you have dinner alone.
In a recent past, many people used frozen food, which was convenient and quick, but it was not always tasty whereas when you buy take away food, you do not have to defrost it and then it is generally tastier. Not only is takeaway food sold in supermarket, but you can also buy that kind of food in many restaurants and particularly those that offer Asian food.
This food is neither bad nor expensive and it is very convenient. It is easy to stop at a takeaway and to buy a ready made dinner on the way back home or even to order it on the phone once you are at home. That's probably why home deliveries, mainly pizzas are becoming so popular. Our food culture is changing because our consumer society is stressing and people want to relax and take advantage of the free time they have in the evening and they do not want to spend time doing domestic chores once their working day is over.
2. Expression personnelle qui puise dans votre propre expérience. Il faudra certainement décrire l'endroit et expliquer les raisons pour lesquelles vous regrettez y être allé, ce qui sera votre argumentation et se basera probablement sur l'utilisation de la comparaison pour justifier vos propos.
« Y a-t-il d'autres restaurants en ville ? » demandais-je.
« C'est selon », répondit l'homme en se raclant la gorge d'un air pensif. Il se pencha légèrement vers moi. « Vous aimez bien manger ?/ vous aimez la bonne nourriture ? »
J'acquiesçai. Bien sûr que oui/ évidemment.
« Alors, y'a rien d'autre. » Il reprit/ retourna à sa bière.
« Essayez le chinois en face », dit son compagnon/ voisin. « Il n'est pas trop mal. »