March 25, 2015

Oyeme, amiga mia!

My husband calls us "the Sex in the City girls" and I'd like to think of it as a compliment. We do not consider ourselves Fashionistas! We orginate from many different countries and although we all used to live in Madrid at one point, we are now scattered throughout the world.

What brought us together - as so many times in the life of Expat trailing spouses - were our kids and their school. It was where we all started our Spanish adventure so many years ago. PTA might not be everyone's cup of tea but in our case the Parent-Teacher-Association gave us a common goal to improve our children's school experience. Turns out we had a lot of fun ourselves while doing so!!!

Last night, I realized as our reunion dinner progessed and the discussions evolved, that not only had we moved on geographically but that many of us found ourselves in a completely different stage of life. A decade ago, our happiness depended on our kids and our husbands. Don't get me wrong our existence still depends on our kids and partners but the concentration has shifted. We have consciously or subconsciously moved the weight away from others - after all, the maintance becomes less as the children grow up - and have started to look after ourselves better. We are learning to put our wishes and needs higher up on our list of priorities compared to ten years ago. This not only transpires in our current life situations but also in our conversations.

We talked openly about our feelings, our fears, our health worries, about lost loves and new encounters that make us feel good. We don't know what the future will bring us but - over the years - we have learnt to enjoy the moment, to appreciate what we have and stop worrying about what we don't have and especially about what others think of us. We know exactly what we like and how we like it and are less inclined to compromise our happiness for someone else's. On the other hand, sharing and genuinely caring becomes a habit, knowing that what goes around comes around... and even if we loose a few and end up disappointed, it doesn't matter. We know we did our best.

So, what makes me feel so at "home" with my gang of Latinas? It is the implicite trust that we have in each other that I treasure. The aspiration that each of the Sex in the City girls has for the other, that she deserves to be happy and have the life she is aiming for. The knowledge that no matter how close or how far we live from one another, we will always accompany and support eachother in whatever path we decide to take in our pursuit of happiness.

So, who cares if we might now be defined as "une femme d'un certain age"? We have the most precious gift of all: the gift of true friendship!

March 21, 2015

An excursion up North

Today I happend to extend my cultural playground all the way to the far North. Arriving in Edinburgh for family reasons, I spent the morning exploring Scotland's most famous castle, a historic fortress which dominates the skyline of the city of Edinburgh.

Edinburgh castle has been at the heart of Scotland’s life for well over 1,000 years. It is the most besieged castle in the UK and over many centuries has witnessed royal ceremonies, savage battles, medieval parliaments, lavish feasts, grand parades, ruthless politics, raids by stealth, the birth of a king and the deaths of queens, jousting tournaments, troubled marriages, devout prayers and intensive military activity. It is a fascinating lesson in Scottish history, built over various epochs, offering endless nooks and crannies to explore. It was just a pity my kids weren't with me to share all the fun.

Barely soup and Scottish salmon for dinner with a late night stroll down Princes street to digest it all. Porridge with proper strong tea for breakfast and a spectacular view onto the castle. Souvenir shops selling kilts and cashmere sweaters. Scottish bag pipers throughout the old town displaying their talent making an extra few Scottish pounds. It all went straight to my tourist heart's delight.

I came across many fellow tourists who were being guided and given directions by the locals. The traditional department store "House of Frazer" was sadly deserted due to unbeatable competition by global high street brands.

Blue skies and fabulous sunshine were a real treat and the Scottish laid-back pace, the unusual accent and the friendly smiles all left me with a taste for more.

But most of all the feeling of content lifestyle prevailed in stark contrast to the daily stress of a metropolis such as Paris. Edinburgh might be Scotland's second largest city, but it certainly has found its own comfortable, humane rhythm. I'll be back with my children soon.

March 15, 2015

A young, innovative Dutch vibe

There is always a special buzz in town during fashion week. You can tell by the "beautifool people" - as the French call them - running around as well as by the huge white or black marquises being set up in various historic locations to host the famous brands' shows.

Then, there is a whole different current vibrating along side the VIP events. A bustle of creativity that supports Paris' reputation as the capital of fashion. Unknown, independent, young designers who are trying to make a name for themselves and somehow manage to stage shows with very little budget. The means might be meagre but the creativity, the will to succeed and to be different from anybody else on the market is tremendous.

It is that creative vibe that I like to follow and which will sometimes take me off the beaten track. The path led me to the Atelier Néerlandais which was staging a show of very experimental young fashion designers who graduated from the same academy as Victor & Rolf.

It sounded like fun so I decided to discover the talents of the four Dutch artisanal designers who had joined forces to showcase their Autumn/Winter 15/16 collection of clothing, textiles, jewellery and bags. Their interpretation was definitely unique although not particularly to my personal taste but then again that would be too conservative. These artist focused on creativity and innovation. Haesung Bong, Anja Dragan, Sunanda Koning and Chrissie Houtkooper definitely held everybody's attention during their 15 minutes of Parisian claim to fame.

March 13, 2015

What's inside the Petit Palais?

Who knew the Petit Palais had so much to offer? I was following the invitation of my friend Mona once again to join one of her tours; this time we were to discover the permanent collection of the Petit Palais.

Having just visited the spectacular temporary Baccarat exhibition before Christmas, I decided it was time to see what lay inside the rest of the Petit Palais. I was not disappointed.

In fact, there are so many precious pieces of paintings, furniture, sculptures and objects that it is difficult to concentrate on them all.

We learnt that the Petit Palais was inaugurated in 1900 for the World Exhibition of the same year, and presented in tandem with the neighboring Grand Palais. As a matter of fact I spent quite some time taking pictures of the lovely view onto the Grand Palais. The "petit" counterpart is a striking example of art nouveau architecture with wrought iron entrances and decorative elements, elaborate cupolas and colourful murals that convey the space and the grandeur of a palace.

Our lovely English guide seem to know every single piece of art. As we walked through the imposing  halls with the "whipped cream" ornaments along the walls and ceiling, she picked and chose her way through 1300 works from the antiquity through the early 20th century with expert knowledge of each creation she set her eyes on.

The collection is rather eclectic featuring classical masterpieces as Courbet, Cezanne, Monet, and Delacroix, however, I like eclectic. Therefore, along with the Nissim de Camondo and the Carnevalet museum it is definitely an alternative to the overcrowded Louvre that you can suggest next time you have visitors.

The grand entrance to the Petit Palais

The winter garden inside the Petit Palais

Just couldn't resist!

The "whipped cream" ornaments

The view onto the Grand Palais and beyond

Eclectic collection of vases...

... stunning paravent...

... antique pitcher and bowl set in PiNk...

... art deco sculptures...

... furniture and tapestry...

... impressionist paintings...

Monsieur Alphand who participated in the renovation of Paris
directed by Baron Haussmann between 1852 and 1870

Portrait of a "Parisienne"
(Chic, elegant, maybe flamboyant but never seductive)

Monsieur Hector Guimard's dining room. 
A French architect, who is best-known for 
the Art Nouveau style of Paris' metro stations.

Magnificent iron wrought staircase designed by Hector Guimard.

 Stark architectural contrasts

March 10, 2015

An Art Deco fashion show

What do you do when a girlfriend from Switzerland comes to visit you during Paris' Fashion week? You ask your hubby to organize a pair of invitations to a fashion show, of course!

That's how we ended up in prime position at John Galliano's Fall/Winter collection show. Monsieur Galliano might no longer be part of the Fashion House but the current designer certainly did a fantastic job. Bill Gaytten explored the motifs of Art Deco combining opulence with sensible flat boots. Parkas were given a make-over, curving gently below the buttocks, and looked fit for an upscale night out. Despite the abundance of prints, many of the pieces achieved a straightforward simplicity.

Compared to the Galliano show I attended three years ago, this collection was much more compelling and definately anchored in our times, even everyday Parisian I dare say.

The atmosphere was upbeat despite being in the basement of the Palais de Tokyo but then again the Palais de Tokyo has become the in-place to hang around these days. Just make sure you don't take your sunglasses off, it could ruin your image!

My personal invitation

A row of VIPs

Starlettes in the spotlight

Real VIPs at an arm's reach

Cool reflections

A professional photographer's picture
who obviously had a prime position

Another professional photo 
to render proper homage to the dress

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