October 22, 2014

Eatlay à l'Américaine

It has been 14 years since we left Milano. I have been back a couple of times to guide friends around the Milano Cathedral or down the famous shopping road Via Montenapoleone but never ventured around the city until this past Sunday.

Popping cross the border from Lugano - where we are on holiday - to Milano to drop off Expat boy for a football match, I decided to meet up with some girlfriends rather than sit through the match.

Best decision ever.

Meeting point: Eatlay. I have been hearing from my friends across the globe about this a high-end Italian food market/mall chain comprising a variety of restaurants, food and beverage stations, bakery, and retail items. Driving into the city trying hard to remember which road to take I recognised the site where once the old Teatro Smeraldo stood. Honestly, I actually preferred the theatre.

However, as a tribute to this historic Milanese location, Eataly hosts a huge stage and offers a totally free season of music, which includes all the genres, from pop to rock to opera, as well as hosting recitals, readings, cabaret, theatre, ballet, meetings and art shows and naturally gastronomic ones.

My description would be: much todo about nothing. Eataly might make sense in New York, Dubai, Istanbul or Tokyo but in Milano? Admittedly, it is a treat and fun to browse around the 5000 m2 devoted to food and the best, locally sourced products spread out over 4 floors but most delicacies can be found around the corner... if you know where to find them! Or just walk down the road to the open market San Marco!




October 15, 2014

Where is Paris' Pletzl?

Charging into my fourth year in Paris, I decided I need to add something new. I joined WICE, an Anglophone association providing cultural, educational & social activities to the International community in Paris. Sounds good to me!

I started with a guided tour through the Jewish quarter of Paris. Turns out the guide was from Paris Walks and I have already spent the last three years touring Paris with them. I guess this just confirms my conviction that they ARE the best in town.

If you live in Paris, you know the historic rue des Rosiers is the heart of the Jewish quarter in the Marais. Did you know it was called the “Pletzl” (Yiddish word for square) and that a small community had already been living in the Pletzl since the middle ages. Also, Rue Ferdinand Duval was called rue des Juifs from the 13th century until 1900 – a reminder that Jews lived in the neighbourhood centuries ago.


We know that L'As du Fallafel make the best Fallafel in town but did you know that Sacha Finkelsztajn, the traitor on 27, rue des Rosier was the divorcé of Goldenberg (the old restaurant owner on 7, rue des Rosiers) or was it Korcarz the boulanger on 29, rue des Rosiers?



The Boulangerie Murciano always features the menorah - the candelabra with seven branches - in its window along with the most scrumptious croissants, pains au chocolat and Jewish delicacies that I have yet still to taste.


We discovered the Mémorial de la Shoah, a memorial for all the victims who died in the Nazi death camps. It hosts a permanent exhibition, a documentation center, the Memorial of the Unknown Jewish Martyr, a crypt housing the ashes of camp victims and a wall engraved with family names of 76,000 French Jews deported. Throughout the area plaques on the walls recall that the neighbourhood has suffered greatly under occupation.


Moving along we admired the Art Nouveau architecture of the Synagogue de la rue Pavée built in 1914 and designed by Hector Guimard, famous for his green Paris metro stations decorations.


We were bold enough to enter the Oratoire Fleischman which left me speechless. I have never ventured into a Jewish place of prayer or worship. I was intrigued by the plaques hanging from the chandeliers and the white veil at one end of the room, apparently the designated area for the women clearly separated from the men. Being five days after Yom Kippur, we came across a Sukkot, representing a hut in which the Israelites dwelt during their forty years of wandering in the desert after escaping from slavery in Egypt and in which Jews are supposed to dwell during this week-long celebration.



In the last five years, the many Jewish bakeries, delicatessens, Judaica shops, kosher butchers that once lined these medieval streets have gone, replaced by spiffy new high-end shops, let’s just hope that the Jewish heart and soul of the pletzl won’t be entirely squeezed out.


October 10, 2014

A view from above

"Paris est toujours Paris" as they say.... AND they are right! This city gives you vibes in a way that no other city can, at least not in a French way!

Here are some impressions from above the city of love:








October 9, 2014

All power to the Nanas

I know I am back in Paris again when, after having dropped off Expat daughter at her acting class, I am spoilt for choice of which museum to visit on a Thursday evening before I need to pick her up again 90 minutes later.

A stroll down Avenue Montaigne - a bit of window shopping never does any harm - and I am standing at the side entrance of the magnificent Grand Palais, the largest existing art-nouveau ironwork and glass structure in the world currently featuring a colourful sculpture placed in the middle of its 19th century garden fountain.

Niki de Saint Phalle is just up my street with all her colourful and opulent pieces of art. I realise how little I actually do know about this eccentric lady apart that in her young years she was an accomplished model and later married the Swiss artist Jean Tinguely.

Her artistic expression of the proverbial everywoman were named 'Nanas'. The first of these freely posed forms—made of papier-mâché, yarn, and cloth—were exhibited in Paris in September 1965. "For me, my sculptures, represent the amplified world of women, women's delusions of grandeur, women in today's world, women in power." Niki de Saint Phalle once stated.

My conclusion: 90 minutes were not enough to appreciate this rich and very varied body of work.







October 5, 2014

That's what friends are for...

I have a great deal of admiration for friends who at 40+ decide to go back to school, so to speak. May it be a language certificate, a specialist's diploma or even a university degree, in any case, you need to be highly motivated and extremely determined to fit studying into your family schedule, especially in a place like Paris where 24 hours just aren't enough for a day to begin with!

Well, there she was standing diligently overlooking the most exquisitely designed room in the Musée des Arts Décoratifs where AD Interieurs was featuring the exhibit “Décors à vivre”.

AD Magazine had joined forces with the Musée des Arts Décoratifs — a natural match, as both institutions are ardent supporters of contemporary creativity in France. This year, 16 carefully selected designers had been offered a wonderful opportunity: to create an interior around a piece from the museum’s collections. Rarely shown, these historic objects, covering a wide spectrum of styles and eras, were integrated into what have been conceived as “live-in decors,” perpetuating the tradition of living art at the museum and in the magazine.

My dear friend having just obtained her interior decorating diploma - and nearly killing herself of exhaustion in the process - had been designated by the world renowned Argentinean architect to vigil over "his room" on Tuesdays and Wednesdays.

The only catch being the late afternoon hours when standing and telling people off for treading on the vintage carpet or touching the antique objects got a bit exhausting.

Me voilà! Here I am! At her side to cheer her on. Had they allowed beverages at the entrance, I would have had Starbucks biggest special coffee with a shot of extra espresso in my hand! However, at this point a good giggle and plans for the coming weekend would let her sail through the afternoon.

...and I have learnt a few new things about interior decoration. Always comes in handy when you move around the globe a lot... ;)










October 3, 2014

It’s the time of year to think pink!

Rarely have I been more excited about something happening in my neighbourhood than yesterday!

Before we first moved to Paris, I was desperately flat hunting and scouting to find something decent within three days. As it often happens, it was to be my very last flat viewing before I rushed to the airport and back to Lugano which at the time was home. I had, however, found my perfect flat. A classic Hausmanian building from the 19th century with a view onto the Arc de Triomphe and a tiny tip of Eiffel Tower if you stretch. It could not get any better.

The only hitch was the restauration of the building in front of us, which was not only noisy but also very dirty. During the extensive refurbishment our flat was filled with dust during the dry days and the windows were a sad sight during the rainy ones.

After three years of enduring the racket across the street even on Saturdays, but steadily watching the building's development with a certain curiosity, it has finally open up it's doors in all its glamorous splendour.

Turns out, it is one of Paris' most prestigious hotels. It is now a treat to look out of our window to enjoy the glorious facade promising prince-like treatment to well-heeled visitors to the French capital.

In 1922, Marcel Proust and James Joyce, the two greatest novelists of the 20th century, met here for the first and only time. In 1928 the American composer George Gershwin wrote the “blues” section of his orchestral poem An American in Paris while staying at the hotel. The building, which dates to 1908, is steeped with history, having housed the Nazi military command when Paris was occupied in World War Two. After the war, the building was briefly the headquarters of Unesco before sinking into anonymity as a French government conference centre and then as offices.

For decades, tourists and Parisians walked past this spot without knowing its extraordinary story. This was a place where the history of the French capital in the 20th century was made, both the light shades and the dark.

Well, last night for the first time ever, the entire outer facade went PiNk transformed with eye-catching pink lighting and decorations much to my delight! It went PiNk for a purpose with the initiative to support Breast Cancer Awareness. Staff are looking extremely smart in black uniforms with their elegant pink ties and specially designed pink pins. Guests and city residents are invited to enjoy a host of enticing pink-themed rooms, dining and spa promotions. I am just enraptured that the usually grey Parisian backdrop finally matches my PiNk dining room.

I have no idea what Mr Joice or Mr Proust would have made of this but I am absolutely tickled PiNk!!!





September 30, 2014

Bucket list of quotes

Sometimes others can simply say it better. Today, instead of blabbing, I am going to highlight some quotes that have made an impact on me. These are not just random quotes from the web, these are quotes that have changed how I think and more importantly, changed how I act.

"Where there's a will, there's a way"
Samuel Smiles

"Each friend represents a world in us, a world possibly not born until they arrive, and it is only by this meeting that a new world is born."
Anaïs Nin

"You will never be completely at home again, because part of your heart will always be elsewhere. That is the price you pay for the richness of loving and knowing people in more than one place."
Miriam Adeney

"Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage."
Anaïs Nin

"The pessimist complains about the wind; the optimist expects it to change; the realist adjusts the sails."
William Arthur Ward

"Minds are like parachutes - they only function when open."
Thomas Dewar

"Luxury is not a necessity to me, but beautiful and good things are."
Anaïs Nin

"Home is now behind you, the world is ahead!"
Gandalf - the Hobbit

“Make new friends but keep the old ones; one is silver and the other's gold”
Unknown

"Let your smile change the world, but don’t let the world change your smile."
Unknown


September 29, 2014

The Definition of Flâneur

The term flâneur comes from the French noun flâneur - which has the basic meanings of "stroller", "lounger", "saunterer" - which itself comes from the French verb flâner, which means "to stroll". Flânerie refers to the act of strolling, with all of its accompanying associations.

The flâneur was, first of all, a literary type from 19th century France, essential to any picture of the streets of Paris. It carried a set of rich associations: the man of leisure, the idler, the urban explorer, the connoiseur of the street. It was Walter Benjamin, drawing on the poetry of Charles Baudelaire, who made him the object of scholarly interest in the twentieth century, as an emblematic figure of urban, modern experience. Following Benjamin, the flâneur has become an important figure for scholars, artists and writers.


In the 1860s, in the midst of the rebuilding of Paris under Napoleon III and the Baron Haussmann, Charles Baudelaire presented a memorable portrait of the flâneur as the artist-poet of the modern metropolis:

"The crowd is his element, as the air is that of birds and water of fishes. His passion and his profession are to become one flesh with the crowd. For the perfect flâneur, for the passionate spectator, it is an immense joy to set up house in the heart of the multitude, amid the ebb and flow of movement, in the midst of the fugitive and the infinite. To be away from home and yet to feel oneself everywhere at home; to see the world, to be at the centre of the world, and yet to remain hidden from the world - impartial natures which the tongue can but clumsily define. The spectator is a prince who everywhere rejoices in his incognito. The lover of life makes the whole world his family, just like the lover of the fair sex who builds up his family from all the beautiful women that he has ever found, or that are or are not - to be found; or the lover of pictures who lives in a magical society of dreams painted on canvas. Thus the lover of universal life enters into the crowd as though it were an immense reservoir of electrical energy. Or we might liken him to a mirror as vast as the crowd itself; or to a kaleidoscope gifted with consciousness, responding to each one of its movements and reproducing the multiplicity of life and the flickering grace of all the elements of life."

Some flaneuses impressions...




September 27, 2014

The challenge of finding a routine

Where can I buy food from my country? How do I find my way around the public transport system? Who makes the best sushi in town? Do you know a tailor? I am hosting a dinner and searching for catering material for 100 people. I need my chairs refurbished. Can you recommend a vet? Where can I work out?

If you've moved abroad, you know the Spiel. Starting daily routine all over again. Beginning from scratch by scouting the most basic necessities in order to get your family settled. Don't even get me started on the doctor search; by the time you've found a good paediatrician, a general practitioner who actually understands what you're saying and a decent dermatologist, it is time to move on again!

However, it is the part I love most about moving, the endless quest of discovering new places, meeting people whom you would have never met had you been comfortable on your home turf, searching for the latest gadget your kids seem not to be able to live without. Every day starts with little missions to conquer your new neighbourhood. Once you feel comfortable in your hood, you start venturing further. You realise how a place can differ with just a 10 minute metro ride!

It is the challenge that keeps me going. The challenge of putting a structure to my life and reaching a daily routine for myself and for my family. Every time you move, it's like a neatly packed stack of cards is being thrown into the air, it then falls on the floor and you need to start sorting it all over again.

And every September old friends move on and leave empty spaces and newcomers arrive. You somehow need to find a new place in your card deck - that you have finally managed to recompose - and your game becomes a little richer in experiences as well as in friendship.

However, in the end it is still YOUR card game and you decide the rules... well, at least that's what I like to think!


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