September 19, 2014

Sit down and listen for a while...

What is it about girl power that invigorates you and puts you back on track just when you need it most?

Feeling a little shaky after my car accident I reluctantly accepted to meet my Latina girlfriends for a coffee after sorting paperwork out at the police station.

Oh boy, I felt so much better after four hugs and a good laugh over a café con leche! The tension had lessened and my brain was thinking about something other than just that scary impact.

A week later, a group whatsapp message went out and within two hours we had reunited seven girls of what my hubby calls the "Sex in the City" ladies for yet another café con leche. This time, it was my Nutrition blogger friend who needed to get her worries off her chest, to vent some anger and count on the moral support and unconditional love of her amigas.

It worked, she walked off an hour later with a big smile on her face ready to enjoy her upcoming holiday.

Sometimes a session in the gym just doesn't do the job even if you'd like to think so!

September 17, 2014

Where in the world...

Paris sounds like a great idea... on paper. For those of you who live here know that like in any big city the motto is: survival of the fittest!

You get used to the waiters treating you as if they were doing you a real big favour, the bus drivers closing the doors on you after you just ran half way down the street and public officers that don't know how to do their job properly.

You live with the grey sky day in and day out, the constant drizzle from October until May, the metro strikes on Monday mornings, the taxi boycott towards the airports on Friday afternoons and the pilots' protests just in time for the holiday period.

You adapt to the garbage trucks passing beneath your bedroom window at six in the morning and the dog poop all over the sidewalks.

You learn not to take the Parisian attitude personally and how to answer back, even though it is not in your nature.

Having summed up the negative points, HOWEVER....

Where else in the world do you:
- get to admire the Eiffel Tower every morning at school drop-off
- watch hundreds of newly-weds having their official wedding picture taken feeling terribly romantic
- take part in any activity that suits your fancy, from cuisine to photography and from art to shopping
- profit from a cultural calendar extraordinarily rich in quality and diversity
- drink wine at lunchtime and everybody thinks it's normal
- enjoy shopping in as many chocolate stores as there are pharmacies
- browse in the hippest concept and pop-up stores in the world
- mingle with the celebrities infront of the entrances of fashion shows
- sign up for a street art tour or follow the traces of the French resistance, not to mention the excitement of a visit to the city's sewers
- take part in Europe's largest lady's race with 35'000 women running under the Eiffel Tower
- savour a Flamenco guitar recital in a cultural centre one day and participate in a world class rock concert in a huge football stadium the next
- follow the president's menage à trois when he never married in the first place and all the beans are spilled in a book

So there, it is not all that bad, life in Paris. You just need to understand what works best for you and your family. Paris does not offer conviviality but it is brimming with diversity.

I am now off for a run through the Bois de Boulogne...

September 14, 2014

La Parisienne - Year 4

This morning I participated in Europe's largest feminine race and marked the beginning of my 4th year in Paris. Upon my arrival from Lugano to the city of lights in September 2011 I decided to start with a bang by signing up for "La Parisienne". It was quite the Parisian experience!

 Today I was running the 6,7km along with 35'000 other women, all of us totally motivated and full of positive vibes! There were pink wigs, purple tutus, neon leg warmers, leopard-printed leggings, fake boobs, fun hair rollers, oversize sunglasses and funny animal ears to be seen, just to mention a few.

Various companies had put up teams. The Boucheron girls looked liked they had just stepped out of the jewellery store. The George V team looked very sporty and poised in purple tank tops, la Gym Suedoise did have a distinct Swedish touch, the Carrefour team turned up by the hundreds but seemed to be pretty out of shape, Yoplait were looking sharp in their bright outfit and Groupama seemed to be having a ball, screaming and shouting every time they passed a music band along the way. They were also pretty fit runners, I might add, as was the George V team!

After a quick warm-up session to the tunes of the Beach Boys (loving it!) on this chilly morning, we started in waves of approx. 2000 girls, pretty big wave, ehh? We were cheered on by all the Dads and kids standing all along the side walk from the starting to the finishing line. Some with home-made posters cheering "Maman, tu est la meilleures!".

Samba groups, Classical Music ensembles, Gospel singers, African musicians even a Scottish Bag pipe band encouraged us to keep going! Kudos to the pink lady band who walked the entire stretch playing their instruments, some of them quite cumbersome and heavy!

Every year, I end up spending more time standing on the Pont d'Iena waiting to start than running the actual race but who's complaining? The idea of standing underneath the impressive Eiffel Tour, participating in the drive to raise awareness for breast cancer and just being part of one of Paris's yearly highlights kept me smiling all the way across the finishing line.

Vivent les Parisiennes!!!

September 10, 2014

Paris is always a good idea!

It's time to leave... in theory!

The plan was to stay in Paris for three years, the typical expat length of stay. By now, I should have been either in full swing preparation for our next move or already scouting out our new location en-lieu.

Instead I am sitting here at my desk in Paris.

Not a bad option you might think. I have come to the same conclusion!
But let me start at the beginning.

We are a family that LIKE moving. In my theory you either do it once or twice and then you're done or else... you are hooked! I am hooked!

I will quite happily move from Shanghai to New York and from Singapore to Rio, as long as it is a big city with an acceptable climate!

The kids have adapted and know it is part of the game. They know we follow Daddy's work which nowadays is a privilege in itself!

It became quite clear about a year ago that plans might change and sure enough there is no move on the horizon, not even on the far horizon.

The kids are at secondary school and at an age where it is probably a good thing that we are carving ourselves a new "permanent" home. My hubby loves his job and I, well, I am starting to think Paris is probably the best place to be in Europe (apart from Madrid, of course).

It is true, we say farewell to friends year after year but we also continue to meet new interesting people. By now, I consider myself part of the Welcome Back committee to all my friends who have moved on and systematically return to visit. It is a treat to reunite with them, even if only for a day.

I am getting so good at it, I have been asked by the school to help organise a Welcome Workshop for new parents arriving to Paris this year. There is no other project I'd rather help doing.

As Audrey Hepburn once said: "Paris is always a good idea!"

September 7, 2014

It's the!

It's the!

Every morning, the same ritual. Rushing out of the front door just in time to see the No.22 bus pass in front of our nose before we sprint down the avenue pass the huge scaffoldings avoiding cars driving in and out of garages to the near bus stop.

A friendly "Bonjour Monsieur" to the driver albeit slightly out of breath. A smile to the two Moroccan ladies who's Arabic chatter always accompanies us throughout the bus ride. A greeting to the two Philippine girls who are off to work. A little chat with the Russian mum and her three small kids.

After riding the same route to school with the public bus every morning at 8:35 for the past three years, we know the characters sitting in every row. A feeling of familiarity and therefore a tiny little bit like home.

We know who gets on at which stop and who gets off where. We invent stories about our fellow bus riders' lives. We check out the window display every morning of the most dazzling haute couture shop, deciding which dress we would dare to wear. In winter, we see the Christmas trees all bundled up lying in front of the florists' and in spring watch the men dressed in business suits sprinting to grab the last Velib bike.

I love the early morning bus rides with my daughter even though I'm not much of a morning person. She, on the other hand, never stops talking. What does a lawyer do? What is an insurance? Please explain what M.Holland does? Heavy duty subjects for an 11 year old.

I explain as best I can while walking the last stretch to school. Many a times we decide we need to google a particular question after school and then forget what it was we were suppose to look up.

However, we never ever forget to turn towards La Grande Dame when the bus drives past her across the enormous Place de Trocadero and every morning with a little meditation and a smile, we greet la Tour Eiffel feeling grateful for living in such a beautiful city.

Expat Daughter started Secondary School this week and is off to school by herself.

I miss our morning bus rides more than she will ever know!

August 30, 2014

My most wonderful day in the Cyclades

He took it as a personal challenge. He would try his hardest to convince me. He promised not to force me. I would be the one to call it a day.

A day on the boat, surrounded by family and friends.

I am a mountain girl (I grew up in Switzerland!) although in my mind I am a total beach bum... until it comes to stepping onto a boat.

I don't like boats. I find them constricting. Admittedly they let you explore the costal beauties but, honestly, I'd much rather take the car or even climb down a cliff to reach a deserted beach than sit in a boat.

I am now in the plane on my way back home from Greece contemplating which was my most memorable experience during my stunning Aegean vacation and I dare say it was the boat ride to the tiny uninhabited islands of Megalo in front of Andros.

The sea surface was flat as an eel, the Meltemi winds had disappeared into thin air (literally) and the Greek sun was pounding down on us. I could see straight through the crystal turquoise water down to the sandy ground 20 meters below me. I slid off the side of the boat, went for a swim with nothing around me but heavens above and water below and reached the tiniest of island. I carefully trod around sea urchins, stepped onto a miniature sandy beach and climbed onto the salt covered rocks.

All I was missing was a coconut!

A last exhilarating swim - with nothing but the Mediterranean and I - and we crossed the bay in search of lunch.

A small taverna on the shore protected by the shade of vine leaves was to be reached only by yet another short swim. We anchored the boat and dove in, holding on to our belongings in a waterproof bag.

No printed menu just a healthy looking local suggesting his daily dishes. A simple wooden table with wobbly chairs painted blue and home-made art hanging from the walls. A delicious meal and nothing but Greek clients all around.

After a mouth-watering lunch, we said good-bye to the ducks waddling along the pebbly beach and swam back to our boat.

Yet another stop - and a dip - in a deserted rocky bay with deep blue water and it was time to go home.

I still don't like boats, but with you - my Californian friend - I hope to share many more boat rides in the Aegean Sea.

Efharisto for a most wonderful day in the Cyclades!

August 26, 2014

I have been challenged...

I have been challenged. Yes, the ice bucket one. How can I not be...?

Everyone under the sun has been posting videos on Facebook. The Ice Bucket Challenge has reached celebrities including Roger Federer, Justin Timberlake, J. Lo, Anna Wintour (yes, she did have half a bucket poured over her hairdo!), Oprah Winfrey and billionaire Bill Gates dousing themselves in ice water. The timing is perfect since it is summer in the Northern hemisphere therefore weather and holidays allow for most of us to accomplish the challenge within 24 hours.

I filmed my son's contribution about three weeks ago on a beach in Greece without thinking it could be my turn soon.

Although I am usually the first to adhere to wacky, fun ideas, this social media buzz has gone a wee bit over the top in my opinion.

The good news is that the ice bucket donations have reached over $80 million to date - the ALS Association had raised $64 million in all of 2013 - and has become a pop culture phenomenon, but how many really know any more about the Lou Gehrig disease than a few months ago?

Therefore I accept the nomination bestowed upon me by my friend Mamita Cubana and will donate towards the ALS foundation but beforehand - rather than getting wet - I prefer to share 10 facts about this disease that you should know and remember:

1.) ALS stands for Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis.
2.) It was first found in 1869 by French neurologist Jean-Martin Charcot.
3.) It wasn’t until 1939 that Lou Gehrig brought national and international attention to the disease. Ending the career of one of the most beloved baseball players of all time, the disease is still most closely associated with his name.
4.) Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) is a progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and the spinal cord.
5.) Motor neurons reach from the brain to the spinal cord and from the spinal cord to the muscles throughout the body. The progressive degeneration of the motor neurons in ALS eventually leads to their death.
6.) When the motor neurons die, the ability of the brain to initiate and control muscle movement is lost. With voluntary muscle action progressively affected, patients in the later stages of the disease may become totally paralyzed.
7.) Most commonly, ALS strikes people between the ages of 40 and 70.
8.) ALS has cut short the lives of such notable and courageous individuals such as actor David Niven.
9.) The Ice Bucket Challenge went viral thanks to former Boston College baseball star Pete Frates and his wife Julie.
10.) The co-founder of the hugely popular challenge, Corey Griffin, 27, has died after drowning in a diving accident in Massachusetts last week.

Following is a short graphic video about the effects of Lou Gehrig's disease:

In the spirit of the challenge, I'd like to nominate my daughter Expat girl, the Flaneuse Press Officer and my sister Pink! You have 24 hours. When doing the challenge, please use the hashtags #icebucketchallenge, #alsicebucketchallenge, and #strikeoutals. Donations can be made to:

August 25, 2014

A piece of Paradise

The time has come to say farewell. A most beautiful holiday has come to an end. For a while we felt like Meryl Streep and Pierce Brosnan lost in the Cyclades. With kids!

Driving across dirt roads with a hired beaten-up Fiat to reach pristine sandy beaches, sailing upon crystal clear waters, discovering abandoned bays where we avoided stepping on sea urchins, reaching little uninhabited islands covered with salt incrusted rocks, each and every day was a new adventure.

We spotted a pick-up truck loaded with goats trying their best not to fall out at every curve. We dined on long white wooden tables with checkered tableclothes and dug into the most delicious Mediterranean dishes. And lots of wine to go with it, of course!

The toughest decision of the day was which flavour ice-cream to choose!

We wondered through the Mykonos' villages of white-washed stone houses with bright blue shutters glaring over the sea like big blue eyes. We learned about the stories of the Gods such as Apollo's birthplace on the island of Delos and the history of Andros' mariners in eras long gone.

We lost ourselves watching the most spectacular of Greek sunsets time and time again.

We met many, many friendly Greeks, not that we understood a word they were saying but every single one greeted us with a smile and made the effort to somehow communicate with us.

We picked up a few words of Greek here and there and kept on using the same words over and over again, but it was more than enough to break the ice.

They say Greece is part of the European Union, personally I feel it as far removed from Europe as can be, starting with their alphabet which is in Cyrillic. To us, rather than a piece of Europe, it felt like a corner of Paradise.

Antío, efcharisto and Θα μου λείψεις!

August 19, 2014

One sleepless night is all it takes...

It all started with a sleepless night on Ferragosto. Most Southern European countries celebrate Assumption Day on August 15th, it is the most important summer holiday and the second most important holiday time after Christmas. 

In our loveley Mykonian hotel things got a bit out of hand when our entire floor ended up as the place hosting - what seemed to be - the hippest after-party from three in the morning until dawn.

Thanks to my lovely husband - who tends to snore - I have taken the habit of using earplugs, therefore sleeping like an angel all through the night. My hubby on the other hand was awake for most of it.

Rather grumpy, he complained the next morning stating that this was not the service he expected, adding a few other details that had been bugging him since our arrival.

He was promptly invited to join the director and owner for a drink to discuss matters.

Next thing we know, we are sitting around a candle lit table with a spectacular view over the Aegean sea and are enjoying the company of four Mykonians who are giving us all sorts of local tips. The director had invited us for dinner with some friends of his.

We spent hours talking about his family's project to renew the hotel for next year and he showed us mock-ups of the final result.

My contribution was the idea of adding a small Italian gelateria along the beach with proper home-made ice cream. I am convinced it would sell like hotcakes!

For the last two days we have been treated like royals and I am sad to leave this lovely island which has taken my heart by storm, mainly thanks to the extraordinary hospitality of its people.

But.... we'll be back... the hotel owner has very generously gifted us with a three complimentary-nights-stay voucher for next summer to experience the newly improved and modernized concept of Mykonian luxurious hospitality first hand.

ΕΥΧΑΡΙΣΤΩ and see you next year!

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