October 23, 2016

Ticino's autumn flavours

On a rainy day, my favourite Sunday pastime in Lugano must be going out for lunch with my family to a grotto.

Grottos, typical of Ticino, are rustic establishments - often family businesses - usually located in remote and shaded areas. Inside you'll discover the cosy, unique and genuine ambiance of a simple tavern, often with an open fireplace. Usually, local products and dishes are cooked with love and served with a smile.

Ticinese cuisine, which is closely related to that of Lombardy, is, like in all regional gastronomies, the result of a continuous process that lies somewhere between evolution and preservation.

The poor and monotonous food of the last centuries, when the majority of the Ticinese people lived off chestnuts, polenta and potatoes, slowly became richer. New food, flavours and recipes came into the picture with the changing of the times, also thanks to Ticinese immigrants that brought back different culinary ideas from the countries they visited.

At the same time, however, Ticinese cuisine preserved several of its characteristics: the use of genuine products, the simplicity of dishes tied to the rural world and the fondness for tasty flavours. Today it proposes dishes prepared according to the recipes that have been handed down from one generation to another but also the modern re-visitation of traditional recipes.

The following are among some of the most renowned and appreciated Ticinese dishes: minestrone, pumpkin soup and busecca, risotto, roasted meats (rabbit, kid), and polenta with Luganighetta sausage or brasato (braised meat), baked, sautéd or marinated fish from the river or lake.

Among drinks, besides local red and white wines, there is fresh and thirst quenching lemonade called gazzosa (which my kids love) but also grappa and ratafià (also called nocino), a liqueur made from walnuts of which, they say, only friars know the original recipe.

Sunday lunch at Grotto Mulino

Served with love: Vellutata di zuccha

 Brasato con polenta and a boccalino of Merlot ticinese

October 16, 2016

Educating for complexity

It started with three simple words back in 2015: New Strategic Plan which resulted with a three page Strategic vision resumé last night.

In between lay months and months of hard work: preparation, organization, team building, work shopping, brainstorming, cooperation, compilation, creation, realization, revision, leading up to the revelation and launch of the school new innovative and ambitious Strategic plan. A road map towards the future.

Last night a little association created over 50 years ago announced to the world it was going to play with the big guys of International schools by putting itself on the educational map. It did so with a bang inviting staff, students, parents, alumni, press and local dignitaries to celebrate the official launch in the Natural History Museum of Paris. It was the perfect surroundings to get a very important message across to everyone.

The IB school has reached a crossroad in it's life cycle: it can either engineer its way around this and carry on as before or it can redesign a new, more challenging but ultimately more rewarding path for staff and students.

There is a palpable sense of evolution as the school's mission transforms in the service of a different vision. More than half a decade of accumulated experience in International education gives it the confidence to offer a bold vision for its future. We are moving from experience to influence.

Lived experience is often complex and it is communities such as our school's that have so much to offer. The new Strategic plan provides a road map for the future allowing our children to engage with and succeed in an increasingly complex world.

As for last night, out of roughly 400 kids I can say I did not see a single one walking around with his head stuck in a device! All of them were running along the esplanades of animals under superbly designed lighting effects and theatrical settings. It will be night in the museum they will not forget... and neither will I.

A spectacular backdrop for a celebration

Moving from experience to influence

It's a complex world we are navigating in

Familiar faces

Curiosity never hurts

Amount of waste a family of four produces in 10 days

October 13, 2016

It's a National sport...

We all know that there are regularly strikes in France, but it’s hard to say whether it is because French people complain more than other people, or because they are less afraid to fight for their rights.

One thing is certain though, French people are adamant about saying what they think and are quick to complain when something doesn’t make them happy.

Today I actually saw it printed on a billboard in front of the City Hall and it made me double-take.

Parisians, let's talk about your rights!

Bienvenue dans le pays de la liberté d'expression.

In French freedom of expression is defined as the the individual's right to state the product of his/her intellectual activity towards his/her entourage.

In English it signifies the right to articulate one's opinions and ideas without fear of government retaliation or censorship, or societal sanction.

Need I say more?

October 10, 2016

I miss my neighbours!

We have moved over the summer and now live down the road, however, I do dearly miss my neighbours, especially during the month of October!

Here is a post from two years ago which I 'd like to share with you:

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!!!

October 2014

October 2013

Winter 2012

October 8, 2016

A girls' wine tasting seminar

Time for wine! How can I resist an invitation to a degustation by my foodie friend?

It wasn't just any proposition, it was a summons for the girls to gather at her house and meet a sommelier of a near-by restaurant who was going to present the French wine appellation Crozes-Hermitage, the largest in the northern Rhône.

We were told that Crozes-Hermitage, along with the rest of northern Rhône, has a continental climate that differs from its southern neighbour, which has a more Mediterranean climate.

I am no sommelier - nor do I aspire to become one, I just like a nice glass of wine -  so unfortunately all the technical details were lost on me.

I was already concentrating on the first white wine which tasted delicious with the rich cheese platter that our impeccable host had prepared.

The two red wines that followed were more appreciated by the other ladies given my preference for white wines. The jambon de Paris, variation of French breads and salads were devoured with gusto by us girls while the poor sommelier seem to be loosing control rapidly as our conversation became more animated in a mix of English, French and Spanish.

Eventually we all had to run off to prepare late dinners for our kids and hubbies, however, we had enjoyed an unexpected feast with lots of giggles and the complicity that accompanies a gathering of good food and great friends.

Oh, and thank Goodness the sommelier never knew we had started off with a glass of champagne and sushi for aperitivo before he had arrived... and what's more...

... apparently my cooking excelled that night according to my family!

October 6, 2016

Colour me beautiful...

The weather is fabulous. The sun is out and the sky is blue... what better way to enjoy such a rare Parisian October day than to head out to the Fondation Louis Vuitton with some girlfriends to visit the glass sails of Frank Gehry's building whom the French artist Daniel Buren has covered with an array of multicoloured filters.

He has covered the 3,600 pieces of glass making up the building's 12 sails in brightly-coloured filters. The colourful pieces have been arranged in a chequerboard-like formation, and have been applied to both the inside and outside of the building's glass facades – creating a kaleidoscopic effect that changes depending on the time of day.

The bright panels pick up hues and textures present in their surroundings: green expanses of forest, the red of neighboring buildings.

13 different hues that accentuate the shiplike structure’s 12 billowing sails.
Guess which is my favourite?!?

Patterns refracting on 3,600 pieces of glass both inside and outside of the building

A penchant for tiling would seem to share the iconic Louis Vuitton "Damier" pattern

"One of the most important things is to give to people the freedom to see the way they'd like" says Daniel Buren.

A peek towards the Eiffel Tower

The very first sketch drawn on a napkin by Frank Gehry

Not quite sure why they call this the grotto? 

A sense of pure luxury

These four deckchairs had our name of them...

... after a very intense lunch!

September 30, 2016

What a Saturday evening in Paris looks like...

Golden hues reflecting in the sunset

The trendiest restaurant in town

Sometimes you can find a nice surprise

Fushion food all in PiNk

Pink roses and ...

... an evening stroll ...

...topped off with a pink lit Eiffel Tower!

September 29, 2016

A little hop across the border

What do you do when both your kids are off on a field trip and your husband has an extremely busy week ahead and announces he'll need to work during the weekend as well?

You take off to catch the last rays of sunshine and blue sky. You head back to your absolute favourite place on earth. Throw on a summer dress and a pair of pink flip flops and hang out with your Sex and the city girlfriends!

Ok, so maybe an excuse or two helped my case such as a girlfriend flying into town from South America and another very close friend celebrating a BIG birthday... but here I am again ... rather unexpectedly... back in Madrid!

I am feeling very blessed to get an extra little sliver of summer ... but now let me go and work on that tan of mine!

Combatting the heat the traditional Spanish way and the high tech "made-in-China" way

September 27, 2016

Get out and vote!

I am good to go.

I have never voted in the United States before but the time has come to change that!

The process has been surprisingly easy even for someone like me who had never registered to vote before. It took filling out a form online, two e-mails to the Board of Elections in my county due to some doubts about my last address of residency - you don't want know how many decades ago - a phone call to a very kind clerk on the other end of the pond and a week later my ballot arrived in the post this morning.

So, wherever you may live in the world: are you ready to vote?

To New York with love from Paris, France

My personal absentee ballot received this morning.

September 24, 2016

Two lesser known Paris' covered passages

What I love about Paris is no matter how long you've lived in this city, there is always more to discover. All you need to do is put yourself out there.

Yesterday I decided to venture across town in search of a rather boring specific kitchen accessoire. Needless to say the sales clerc was utterly unhelpful. Rather than wasting my time, I decided to step outside the shop and explore the area.

Sure enough within minutes I came across an intriguing looking passage. Covered passages in Paris are always worth venturing into, they are an early form of shopping arcades built primarily during the first half of the 19th century. The common characteristics of these covered passages are that they are pedestrianised with beautiful glass-ceilings, highly ornamented and lined with small shops, usually connecting two streets.

Passage Bourg l'Abbé with its muted, pastel interior is enhanced by the natural light that drenches this quaint and charming passageway from its long and unusual curved glass ceiling above.
The combination of pretty tones, delicate detail and light provides a certain sense of serenity and calm that the other Parisian arcades don’t seem to have.
Passage Bourg du l’Abbé may not boast to be the longest or most glamorous covered passageway in Paris but it most certainly has charm and elegance and some wonderfully, enchanting detail, if you take a moment to pause and explore.

Passage du Grand Cerf filters natural light through the spectacular 12 metre high glass ceiling, the highest of all the covered passageways and in my view one of the prettiest in Paris. The magnificent architecture comprising of glass, steel and timber and the quirky artistic shops makes Passage du Grand Cerf a wonderful way to step into a place of times long past.

Passage du Bourg l'Abbé is only 47 m long...

... but full of surprises.

Gotta love the Frenchies!

Small independent specialist shops line the passage

Passage du Grand Cerf: 117m long

Entrance to the Passage du Grand Cerf

From arts and crafts to ... 

... vintage you'll find it all under one roof.

My kind of bird... PiNk!

Intriguing objects

Drawer knobs delight

All sorts of antiques

Souvenirs for tourists 

Knick knacks for collectors

Always ready for a new discovery

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