December 6, 2016

Samichlaus and Grittibänz

Today is St.Nicolas, an important date in Switzerland and one our family loves to celebrate. When I was a little girl, on the night of December 5th I would put my wellington boots (these were the biggest pair of shoes I owned) outside the front door, so that - over night - Samichlaus would fill them with mandarines, peanuts and chocolate.

The Swiss Father Christmas is based on Saint Nicholas, whose feast day was celebrated on December 6th – his Swiss German name, Samichlaus, alludes to that.

It hit me this afternoon while I was sitting in front of my computer... Samichlaus had not come by! Keeping in line with family tradition, this could not go uncelebrated even if we do now live in Paris. I popped out to buy some ingredients and went to work.

Expat daughter would be so happy to find a taste of "home" for teatime. She still remembers when her school class in Lugano went into the woods looking for San Nicolao. He would be waiting to distribute a Grittibänz, mandarines and some nuts to the good children, the bad children had to work things out with his helper "Schmutzli" who was considerable less understanding. However, after reciting a little poem in honour of Saint Nick they would all walk back to school with a big grin on their face carrying lots of goodies to take home.

So my kids do not speak Swiss German but they do know how to recite a Samichlaus poem to perfection. Motivation is everything!

Grittibänz is Samichlaus' speciality: 
these little bread men are made primarily for Saint Nicholas Day, 
and likely date back to the 16th century.

December 4, 2016

Living in a foreign country is like...

Every once in a while I come across a quote that sticks. Probably because it hits close to home. This week a fellow blogger, Helen Bannigan, made me smile with her post French Etiquette Faux Pas and the following quote:

"Living in a foreign country is like playing a game, the rules of which nobody has explained. The trick is to enjoy the game, without missing too many plays, learning and growing as you go along."

December 2, 2016

A Swedish Christmas tradition

Five years ago a Swedish-American friend invited me to the Christmas bazaar at the Svenska Kyrkan. Having grown up in Switzerland never missing the annual English-speaking Christmas bazaar in Zürich I was excited to scout the Swedish one.

Walking into the church courtyard on a freezing cold morning, I was surrounded by the singsong of Swedish and admired the many Swedes who had turned up in their traditional outfits. One step off the sidewalk and we were miles away from Paris.

All kinds of Nordic salmon was at offer to my left and reindeer meat to my right. A lovely stand full of good quality, sturdy candles and Scandinavian Advent candleholders were calling out my name. I bought a contemporary stylish one which since has taken its place of honour on my mantelpiece every year during Advent.

Inside an immense wall was decked out with shelves full of Swedish food and the crowd was a clear sign of this stalls' success. I crossed the community center to admire the handmade Christmas decorations. I remember my mother collecting these little Scandinavian Father Christmases carved of wood and clothed with hand knitted mini-capes and hats. At the time I was too young and just didn't "get it". Why would you prefer a wooden statuette to a glittery, golden star or bright coloured glass bulbs?

In the meantime, my Swedish connection has moved away from Paris but that did not stop me from popping by the Swedish Church to buy a handmade little Christmas figurine. Yes, it has become a yearly tradition as I add to my Mum's collection.

I did not stay for lunch that was actually served inside the church with tables set up in between the pews. However, I could not walk past the fine wafts of Glögg making me feel "mysig" and drank one to the health of all my Swedish girlfriends. God Jul!

Starting to feel mysig already

Two simple ingredients to create a wonderful decoration

This little man has stolen my heart

So many decorations to choose from

 Honestly, these don't look like they're having fun!

Fluffy angels

Organized Swedes: they even have their trademark

Can't go without Santa Lucia

Love these: simple and straight to the heart

Hand-knitted snowmen waiting for their turn 

A touch of tradition

Inside the Swedish Church courtyard

Every window featuring the typical "Adventsljusstakens" 
with seven lights representing the days of the week.

November 30, 2016

What to wear?

What to wear? That is the question when you receive an invitation from Italian embassy. Because no matter how you dress, the Italian fashionistas will ALWAYS be one step ahead of you in terms of style.

When in doubt wear black trousers and a white silk blouse. High heels, the higher the better and a trendy handbag. You can never go wrong with that!

I like accessories but am not very skilled at making them do the right thing. They should be a statement which completes any outfit and gives its wearer the chance to convey her own sense of style. I do statements through colour. However, if you want to keep pace with the latest fashion trends and change your look, wearing fashionable dresses are not enough. In order to get a stylish look you should also choose accessories that match your dress and for this you need to follow the latest trends in accessories.

All this to tell you the Italian embassy was spectacular as was the exhibit we had been invited to: "Leonardo in Francia"

Comemorating Leonardo da Vinci's death 500 years ago with an extraordinary exhibit of his works collected from France and Italy.

Inside the Italian Embassy in Paris known as l'Hôtel de la Rochefoucauld-Doudeauville

Felling like Alice in Wonderland

Stepping into another century

November 29, 2016

Appreciate every extra day

The sun is shining, the sky is blue, so just let me unglue myself from the screen and pop out for a quick run. Dressed in my boy's Under Armour cold gear not minding the 4°C a bit, putting my best smile on and pulling the black winter fleece cap over my ears, greeting my neighbour who is lugging bags of woollen blankets out the door (her horses are cold!), I am happy and appreciative of every extra day of lovely light and sunshine before the long, grey, depressing Parisian winter hits.

Le pont Bir-Hakeim where you get insulted by bike riders
should you dare to run on their path... really?!?

Newly weds just loooove to take their picture from this spot

Running up and down l'ile aux cygnes makes you feel like Rocky himself

Running around the local soccer pitch...

... to reach Les Champs de Mars

No time to rest, the sun will be gone before you know it!

November 27, 2016

Just a regular Sunday in Paris

A Sunday morning lie-in
after a delicious Thanksgiving dinner "entre amis" the night before...

... a scrumptious lunch of leftovers...

... followed by a jog under the Eiffel Tower!

The perfect Parisian Sunday and it didn't even rain!

November 26, 2016

11 girls and 192 km

How can two people go on the pilgrimage route of Santiago and manage to take nine friends with them?

It all started with a reunion dinner in September, a special occasion for which some of us had flown in from abroad. We joked about the fact that two ladies of our Sex and the City gang had signed up for a 9-day hike. It seemed as if they were about to bite a bigger piece than they could chew.

Well, I will admit up front by saying I am in total awe. They did it! Eight days of solid hiking through rugged Spanish country side. 20 to 30 km a day.... and we are no spring chickens I might add... BUT ... they succeeded with flying colours arriving at Santiago de Compostela today with tired limbs and huge smiles.

You are wondering how did we accompany them? A Whatsapp group was created and every morning we'd wake up to the deep voice describing the march ahead accompanied by a short video clip with a high pitched giggle in the background. Every night they would find our well wishes, photos and video greetings that the nine of us would send them from Madrid, Paris, London, Lisbon, Miami, New York and even Buenos Aires. They couldn't have asked for a more International fan club!

We cheered them on with messages during their long walking hours telling them they were beautiful and strong. We rooted for the local Galician mamma who cooked dinner for them on one of their stops, we warned them about the charming Italian they kept on bumping into every day.

We sent them pictures of yummy cappuccinos, relaxing manicures, walks through London parks, drives through Madrid rainfalls, French demonstrations, American skylines and Argentinean countrysides. In return we received more smiles and more giggles along with soundtracks of animal farms and photos of bridges, rivers, village signs and starchy food, shots of breathtaking views and insightful perspectives of their daily routes.

Ladies, in spirit we were on that trek with you every single day. I speak for the whole gang when I say we are in total admiration of your achievement. And to be totally honest a little jealous of your enduring positivity throughout your journey. Not once did we witness even the slightest sense of humour failure ... but then again as the saying goes: what happens on the Camino de Santiago, stays in Camino de Santiago.

During that week, one of us sold her family house, I held a major launch event I had been working towards for months and the luckiest one of us got engaged! We will have a lot of catching up to do next time we get together.

Day one and 192 km to go...

... but with a view like this...

... il "Camino" is worth it!

Enchanted woods

 A little good vibes from the pink lady 

The Argentinean perspective

A hostel with the right attitude

Picturesque Spanish town

Endless path towards Santiago de Compostela...

... compared to the French reality that same day.

November 24, 2016

A walk around the block

You gotta love living in Paris when you discover a tour that actually takes you around your own block and 90 minutes are not enough to cover all the history that surrounds you.

The weather was typical Parisian and the grey drizzle was in no way tempting Expat hubby and I to venture out on a Sunday afternoon.  However, in view of the artists' open doors of the 16th arrondissement this weekend, I had come across a guided tour not of our neighbourhood but of our block, literally, we are talking about a radius of 200 meters.

The young and energetic guide told us enthusiastically about the origins of the hill of Chaillot and how the foundations for the Trocadero came to be as well as it's evolution over the five Universal expositions of 1855, 1867, 1878, 1889 and 1900.

The original realisation of the old Trocadero Palace designed in 1878 by the architects Gabriel Davioud and Jules Bourdain was destroyed for the Exposition internationale des Arts et des Techniques appliqués à la Vie moderne of 1937 and replaced by the structure as it is seen until today.

Palais du Trocadero built for l'exposition universelle de 1878

We walked around the Palais under the pouring rain listening intently to all the guide's anecdotes. We continued down the road to marvel at August Perret architectural feat who had built the first modern reinforced concrete apartment building in Paris on rue Benjamin Franklin in 1903-04. As the architect himself would have said: "Construction is the architect's mother tongue; the architect is a poet who thinks and speaks in construction."

After a brief wonder into the Passy Cemetery, we ended up admiring the Aga Khan's townhouse on rue Scheffer which had been renovated by René Herbst between 1930 and 1932. The original building dated from 1891 and was realized by the architect E. Barberot on behalf of the painter Guillain.

Who knew what famous celebrities and spiritual leaders lived in the hood. You never know, next time I might bump into royalty at the local supermarket.

Reflection on the esplanade

Trendiest café in town behind those windows

High tea for the tourists while the street vendours are out of business 

Entrance of the Musée de l'Homme

Walked passed this wall thousands of times without noticing that each relief represents a continent.



August Perret's most famous piece of architecture...

... and 50 m down the road another marvellous example of 1930 architecture.

This is a regular Parisian entrance portal!

Cimetière de Passy, no watering needed today.

Splendid Art Deco glass panels ornating the former Aga Khan's residence

Rain, rain go away... come again another day!

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