July 21, 2016

This is for my girls

The following video is just too cool not to share on my blog. It is not about Paris or Expats but should get you smiling or even moving to the groove. It is linked to an initiative I feel very passionate about: Education.

In March 2015, the First Lady Michelle Obama launched Let Girls Learn to address the range of challenges preventing adolescent girls across the globe from attaining a quality education that empowers them to reach their full potential.

But Michelle Obama did not stop there, this spring she enlisted a major girl squad to sing the power anthem "This Is For My Girls." The song, which was inspired by the Let Girls Learn initiative and the 62 million girls around the world who do not have access to education, features Kelly Clarkson, Missy Elliott, Jangle Monáe, Kelly Rowland, Zendaya, Lea Michele, Chloe x Halle, and Jadagrace.

While the First Lady is not featured on "This Is For My Girls," it was a natural fit for her to join James Corden for a Carpool Karaoke segment to sing the song and celebrate the power of musical activism.

Now, I don't know about you, but my vote definitely goes to the current first lady!

July 19, 2016

Some like it hot...

Why is it the one time we are not in Paris the city is sizzling with temperatures up to 38°C? Two weeks ago we were all still wearing our winter coats!!!

And while some are complaining... the Parisians are good at that ... others are just jumping into the nearest fountain to cool down. Department stores are in high demand but not due to summer sales but for the instant relief that the air-conditioning provides.

Now would be a good time to catch up with all the movies you have been wanting to see. France's cinemas are freezing in summer and a fool-proof way to escape the sunshine for a while.

When all else fails head for one of the places selling Berthillon ice cream. They're not hard to spot, there's usually a queue out the front. Amorino stores are also pretty good.

As for me, I am happy to sit out the 40°C in Madrid under the scorching sunshine and bright blue sky and work on my suntan... because some like it HOT!

Worth the wait!

Finally... Summer has hit Paris!

The perfect place in the shade to enjoy an ice cream!

July 17, 2016

It's a full house!

It is Saturday evening and I am off for a run under the scorching heat... just to be by myself for half an hour. 30 minutes to recoup and regroup myself... and to step out of the action for a moment in order to appreciate all the good things in life.

Summer holidays are undeniably linked to Spain in our family. We left a piece of our heart in Madrid when we moved on to Lugano in December of 2006 and have been coming back here every year since.

The Expat Exodus is when you travel back to your home town/country for the long summer holidays which in our case happens to be Spain. Full house would be the most appropriate definition of our life-style here but I like to call it home.

The kids' friends come for sleepovers the day we arrive, the neighbours turn up at our doorstep with margaritas in hand to welcome us home (yes, they know me well!), birthdays are celebrated and girlfriends' reunion lunches organized (with lots of pink cava flowing!), friends and family come to visit from Switzerland, Italy, Sweden and England. Even the gardner was happy to see us again and brought us a big platter of his wife's home-made couscous yesterday! We were ten people at the table and camp beds were pulled out later that day to accommodate all the friends who wanted to stay into the wee hours of the night. My Italian mother-in-law tells me it feels like a family hotel.

Kids know that the breakfast buffet is open between 10am and 1pm, however, no one is allowed to sleep past midday. Lunch is light and home-made and served around 3pm. True to Spanish style dinner is not before 10pm. We all gather the chairs around the wooden table on the terrace at the end of the day when the heat decreases and temperatures invite us to stay up late enjoying good company, scrumptious food and refreshing drinks.

So, when I go off for a run before dinner it not just for the exercise, it is to give thanks for all the lovely moments in life I have been blessed with. 

July 10, 2016

Ode to Life

Tonight I received one of the most touching farewell messages I have ever received from a fellow Expat. It was not a personal note but nevertheless went straight to my heart. What a beautiful way describe one's emotions that are so difficult to explain when asked why do you keep on moving homes if it makes you cry every time?

Here is the answer:

Slowly dies he who becomes a slave to habit, 
repeating the same journey every day, 
he who doesn't change his march,
he who doesn't risk to change the colour of his clothes,
he who doesn't speak to he whom he doesn't know. 

Slowly dies he who shuns passion, 
he who prefers black on white and dots on i's rather than a bundle of emotions,
the kind that make your eyes glimmer,
that turn a yawn into a smile, 
that make the heart pound in the face of mistakes and feelings.

Slowly dies he who doesn't overturn the table, 
he who is unhappy in his work, 
he who doesn't risk certainty for uncertainty, 
to thus follow a dream, 
those who do not forego sound advice at least once in their lives.

Slowly dies he who doesn't travel, he who doesn't read, 
he who doesn't listen to music, 
he who doesn't find grace in himself,   
He who slowly destroys his own self-esteem, 
who does not allow himself to be helped, 
who spends days on end complaining about his own bad luck, about the rain that never stops.

Slowly dies he who abandons a project before even starting it,
who fails to ask questions on subjects he doesn't know, 
he who doesn't answer when he is asked something that he knows. 

Let's avoid death by small doses, 
remembering always that being alive requires an effort far greater than the simple fact of breathing.

Only a burning patience will lead to the attainment of a splendid happiness...

By Pablo Neruda

July 6, 2016

Gone searching for the sun...

... but stay tuned for some summer entertainment!

July 4, 2016

An exotic birthday celebration

It was an important date in the calendar, one that just needed to be celebrated in defiance of the fact that we grow older and there is absolutely nothing we can do to avoid it. I decided to embrace my new milestone with grace and in style.

My birthday wish was to be whizzed away for a surprise weekend with my family. I didn't want a physical present, all I wanted were some memories my kids as well as my husband and I could look back onto and which would make us smile.

The kids were great, they planned for months together with their Daddy without ever letting a word drop in my direction.

And so I was told last Wednesday to be ready the following day at 4pm with my bag packed for a beach destination.

Up until then my mind had wondered to Amsterdam and Bruxelles. Now I was thinking more like Marbella or even Sardegna.

We set off for the airport the next day and I still had no clue where my family was taking me. Despite my curiosity I managed to get through check-in and passport control with the destination unknown to me. The feeling was liberating: all I needed to do is follow my family. I am so used to leading the troops that letting loose was were my birthday present started.

Not until we boarded - thanks to some rather insistent advertising on the head rests - did I find out we were on our way to Malta!

Not in a million years would I have guessed. The tiny little island lost in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea was the coolest destination I could have asked for.

Exotic yet European, far enough but not too far for a long weekend and the weather would be so much better than in Paris! ;)

Home to the Sovereign Military Order of Malta, the world's oldest surviving chivalric order, with its rich and ecclectic heritage. A weird and wonderful mix of cultures and a language which origins are impossible to pinpoint.

In short: my kind of paradise!

We spent three unforgettable days walking through medival villages and sumptuous cathedrals, colourful fishmarkets and even got a tour through the Baron of Piro's 400 year old home.

Of course, we hit the beach and the pool, cried a bit watching Italy on the giant beach screen lose the football match against Germany and celebrated my birthday with lots of bubbly around a candle-lite dinner table with our toes in the sand under a starry sky overlooking the bay of St.George.

We rode in ancient Mercedes with taxi drivers defying gravity as well as speed limits and tasted local delicacies we do not know the name of.

We laughed, we teased, we sang, we took pictures, we quarreled, we swam, we ate, we danced, we walked (lots) and we learnt (lots), we shared, we enjoyed but most of all ... We will remember!

Air Malta and its distinct branding...

Downtown Valletta...

... a strange mix of architecture.

A spice merchant

The inside of St. John's cathedral in Valletta

La casa Rocca Piccola 

If these balconies' only had voices to speak...

The touch of Christianity is omnipresent

L'Imdina or the Silent City!

The signs of a Christian stronghold

A tiny time capsule

St. Paul's Cathedral in L'Imdina

A deserted alley way

Marsaxlokk, the Southern tip of the island...

... an enchanting fishers' village...

... with a distinct Italian touch to it!

Il terrone!

June 30, 2016

It's a surprise!

It's my birthday and I am being whizzed off by my family to some unknown destination! All I have been told is to be ready today at 4pm with my bags packed for a hot point of disembarkation. I am so excited....

June 29, 2016

The charme of Ile de St.Louis

Evidence of how out of sync I have been this week (due to our move down the road) would be my belief that I was joining a tour about the bridges of Paris when in actual fact we were discovering the delights of the island of St.Louis. It did not help that the meeting point was in the middle of the Pont de la Tourelle and that the guide started explaining the to and fro between the Marais and the little natural islands in the Seine river.

It was half-way though the tour I realised that the lovely and extremly knowledgeable albeit a tad bossy tour guide was taking us through the history and architecture of the Ile de St.Louis named after Louis IX (Saint Louis), King of France.

The responsibility for the development of the Ile Saint-Louis in the 17th century was given to Christophe Marie, general builder for public works. In exchange for his pro bono work, he was granted a license to build elegant residences. Today the Ile Saint-Louis is one of the most authentic and unaffected 17th- and 18th-century neighborhoods in Paris.

This small island is like an oasis from the rush of the city. It's almost as if someone dropped a small French village into the centre of Paris, as it features everything you would want from your neighbourhood: seductive boutiques, bakeries, fromageries and cafés... and of course, the best ice cream in town: Berthillon!

View from the Pont de la Tourelle

Looking onto Ile St. Louis from Pont Marie

Wave, it's me!

Beautiful facades...

... and century old balustrades.

The perfect spot for contemplation...

... with an extraordinary view onto the Pantheon.

The local boulangerie

What's on the "Menu du jour"


The oldest bookshop in town has sadly closed shop!

Step in and savour the smell!

One of the few original Gallery signs left

Old-fashioned barber shop

Time for a yummy treat

The island's main street, rue de Saint-Louis-en-l’Île

June 26, 2016

Parisian rooftop yoga divas

According to the calendar Paris was enjoying the spring, why... we were one day short of summer solstice, a date I had marked last year as one of the best days so far in Paris.

I had discovered a yoga studio that for 5 mornings only would give a yoga class on the roof terrace of La Maison Blanche, the most extravagant restaurant in Paris, also known for its spectacular view onto the Eiffel Tower.

So there I was; I had been calling the studio since March to make sure I got a space for this extraordinary yoga session and now I was standing on a rather unprotected wooden deck over looking not only La Grande Dame de Fer but also the enormous golden dome of the new Russian Orthodox Cathedral, Les Invalides and half the Seine. It is a view and a feeling that has yet to be surpassed despite my many exploits in this city.

The only hiccup this year was that instead of the sunshine and 25°C I was hoping for we were threatened by big heavy grey clouds and a rather chilly wind. But nothing was going to keep the ten ladies that had turned up for this exclusive encounter, we therefore went into our downward dog, kept calm and carried on! 

When the first drops began to fall the Australian teacher suggested - with a rather worried smile - to take the class inside which we all vehemetly declined and stoically sailed though our yoga class under the rain. 

I hit me then and there overlooking the rooftops of the city of love that it is Paris and the passions this place evokes that keeps Parisians going.... most certainly not its weather!!!

“It’s Paris. You don’t come here for the weather.”

A flowery welcome and ...

... the panoramic view...

... before we get down to business!

Peeking into the neighbours' ateliers

A stunning and memorable rooftop yoga session!

June 23, 2016

Ever heard of the Refugee Food Festival?

Thank Godness for foodie friends! I have a terrible sweet tooth but I won't necessarily trek the other side of town for a Michelin star chef. I enjoy good food but can go without lunch if I'm on the run... that happens a lot in Paris!

Therefore la gourmandise... 4 mains was completely off my radar. Luckily the Flaneuses' communication officer has moved up in this world to become an International Wine Challenge Associate Judge, her friend is an International award-winning cheese expert so all I need to bring along is the baguette! Just kidding.

I am grateful for my friend insisting on inviting me to the gourmet events happening in the city. There are too many to attend! Yesterday she extended an invitation that tickled my fancy.

A renowned Parisian chef was to create a 7-course meal together with a Syrian trained chef and .... refugee.

On the occasion of the World Refugee Day on June 20, the first Refugee Food Festival came to life: ten Parisian restaurant owners opened their kitchens to refugee chefs. An initiative to help change the view on refugees thanks to the universal language of culinary delights.

The buzz hit the town... and the oldest Basque establishment in town was fully booked in an instant.

Stéphane Jégo had met Mohamad Elkhaldy just a fortnight earlier in Paris and decided to give it a try. He welcomed the Syrian Chef in his restaurant l'Ami Jean where the two got to work using Google translate and swapping photos on their smartphones to communicate.  Together they developed a menu merging the French and Syrian cuisines to create an truly unique experience in sense, taste, colour and ambiance.

Shokran Mohamad et Merci Stéphane pour un déjeuner délicieux et extraordinaire!

Here is the menu for the foodies amongst you:
Travaillé de lentilles corail, kebbeh aux épinards / Kebbé nayé "concassé d'agneau" et anguille fumée / Chanklich fromage fermenté / Marinade de maquereau, piment doux sauce Tahini / Farci de courgette "boeuf de Galice, fraicheur de yaourt / Freekeh de tradition, pigeon "Mesger" rôti / Crème glacée syrienne à la pistache / Riz au lait

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