September 30, 2012

Welcoming Bill Gaytten to the House of Galliano

John Galliano, the ousted designer!!!! His label is still on the scene although banned down to the docks for his latest fashion show. Or is he setting a trend... once again?
For the second time in one week I trecked down to Les Docks to get a glimps of Paris' fashion week.

I drove myself across Paris figuring there was less traffic on Sundays. Needless to say I got stuck in a demonstration against austerity (!!!) infront of the docks and needed to walk in my high heels from the parking which was miles away. Not a good start!

Expecting to find a lovely marquis ontop of the lofty rooftop garden, I found myself walking around the building - thanks to poor directional guidance - to get to the lower level.

After some haggling about a backstage braclet I wasn't wearing - the queen of negotiating her way inside was losing her patience and therefore - I decided to turn to being snobby, unfriendly and blasé towards the security guide who admitted my invitation was valid but that I needed a braclet. "Listen man, honestly I think I'm past the age of backstage. Seriously"! I walked over to his collegue who let me in with a smile.

Taking my seat at 5pm sharp (I am Swiss after all) we were informed/warned by a "monsieur désagréable" to step out of the runway for the rehearsal. Rehearsal???? You've got to be kidding me! The invitation says five pm! A handful of the saddest looking models paraded up and down the basement of the building to some dreary music whereafter we were kept waiting for an hour!!!! Time to write my blog post!

Then the VIPs - who had all been stuck in the same demonstration outside - started arriving and the buzz began.

The designer it turns out is Bill Gaytten and his sculptured volumes, graphic print and pure colours explored the modernity of dressing. Cut-away shapes, clean round-necklines and varying asymmetric hems in trench cottons, technical taffeta, crepe, cotton poplin punctuated this contemporary, feminine collection. The Spring/Summer 2013 collection was a restrained palette of stone, coral, navy, white, black and pale pink. It was fabulous and definately worth the wait.

September 29, 2012

Mastering my camera

I love taking photos. I am not a professional. I go by instinct and trial & error. However, I am always happy to learn. I therefore registered for a photo tour in Paris. It combined tailored photography advice and instruction through the most photogenic parts of the Marais. I learnt some new skills within the first five minutes of our encounter with the charming guide named Hermione. The tour started out with instruction on the various settings on our cameras. Hermione was patient and helpful -- and she really opened my eyes to all of the photographic possibilities that were around us. Here are but a few Sepia pictures.

These were Hermione's tips:

- Up close and personal
- Follow the lines
- Threes or odd numbers
- Fill the frame
- Tell a story
- Give the idea
- What's the picture about? Move close to subject
- Look back and discoveries
- White balance
- ISO dark situation make number higher, normal setting 100 or 200
- Cloud setting to warm up image and helps with orange buildings in Paris
- Minimize distracting backgrounds
- Reflections in windows, bike mirrors, sunglasses
- Blur part of pic with slr

September 28, 2012

C'est compliqué...

Sometimes Parisians can be really nerve-wracking and the French-way-of-doing-things becomes frustrating. The most trying process needs to be the public health system.

It took me seven months to receive national health insurance cards for my kids and myself. They had forgotten to issue one for my husband who is after all the person paying for it. Once they awarded HIS card another two months later, they got the dates wrong of one of my kids so we had repeat the process. On top of this vital "CARTE VITAL" which is what the French call it, it is wise to contract an additional private health insurance. They SHOULD cover any remaining costs after your bill has gone through the public system, and since the public part only covers a small part of your costs it sounded like a great idea ... at the time!!!! In actual fact I probably paid less in Switzerland with full-blown medical coverage (I read somewhere that the average Swiss is 70% overinsured!!) than I do in France.

Today I needed to pop into a pharmacy to purchase some medicine for my dear hubby. Little did I know this was to be an unforgettable episode in the French health saga. Now how difficult can it be to buy a box of pills?

In Paris...
- you run through the pouring rain and rush into pharmacy
- you stand in line
- you are welcomed by a grumpy lady pharmasist with a fluffy hairdo and red lipstick
- she scans the handwritten prescription you received by the unfriendly French ophtalmologist
- she scans again because it didn't work
- you hand over your CARTE VITAL, your health insurance card with a digital chip revealing all your personal details
- you give her your private health insurance card to cover the difference of price since the public national health insurance covers peanuts
- she goes to the back of store to do I don't know what
- she comes back to front of store and rummages through the shelving system
- she opens the bottom shelve but can't find the medicine
- she opens the top shelve and can't find the medicine
- she opens all three shelves in beween and still can't find the medicine
- she goes back to the bottom shelve and finally finds the box of medicine
- this process is repeated twice since I asked for three different products
- she scans all three medicine labels and realizes that one medicine is not in the computer system
- she calls someone else to QUICKLY add it to their computer system
- she finally hands me the three boxes and asks me for 15.85 Euros ... hello?... I have TWO health insurance cards and I still need to dish out cash?
- Now, if I don't get home within five minutes I will miss my grocery home delivery and there will be no dinner tonight. Au Revoir, Madame!

Ah, c'est compliqué, la France!!!!

September 27, 2012

You learn every day...

Sitting down with Expat girl to do her homework, she very proudly asked me to give her two double digit numbers which she would multiply with the help of a new method she had learnt at school earlier today. My curiosity was peaked ... we were still doing single digits yesterday?!?

When she started talking about Ninja lines I knew this was blog material. I took step-by-step fotos to let you in on the secret weapon of double-digit multiplying without a calculator.

So here goes:

25 x 12

draw four squares

allocate a number to each square

this is where the Ninja lines are drawn diagonally across the four squares 

multiply the single numbers along the dotted lines

repeat for each square

once you've multiplied all the single digits with each the other

add little tails to the edges of the squares to elongate the Ninja lines

add up the numers along the diagonal divisions

et voilà: 300

September 26, 2012

Où sont Les Docks?

Les Docks de Paris is a long, narrow, old yet functional warehouse, with historical significance. Built around the turn of the last century, it served as a depot to store goods brought up the Seine by barge, to be transported onwards by road or by train.

The Parisian city authorities organized a contest for a new cultural development programme to revitalize the site. The Musee Galliera, the fashion museum in Paris, is locked for renovation until 2013, but the management has done their outmost to give the large fashion audience other possibilities to enjoy the enormous collection of fashion items belonging to Musee Galliera. Reason enough for me to treck across town to take a look at Les Docks.

My explorer friend and I treated ourselves to two fashion exhibitions: Spanish designer Cristobal Balenciaga and Japan’s legendary designers, Rei Kawakuba for Comme Les Garcons.

Cristóbal Balenciaga’s colossal collection of period costumes:

shining light on the period pieces that informed the expert couturier’s cocktail dresses and evening jackets

The cult label Comme des Garçons’ spring/summer 2012 collection:

sci-fi-style plastic bubbles displaying the theme "White Drama"

inspired by the color white’s significance to major stages in a woman’s life. Birth, communion, marriage, death, and transcendence are all realized through the form of a dress, simultaneously referencing and re-interpreting fashion trends past.

September 25, 2012

Le petit chef ... ma fille!

Last night my hubby and I were treated to once in a lifetime experience. We had dinner at a charming little bistrot and were served by ... our nine year old daughter. She had signed up for a culinary apprenticeship for children in a traditional French restaurant in the heart of Paris. Only in Paris have I come across such an offer!!!

I had dropped her off at the bistrot three hours earlier. The chef took over and trained ten little girls and boys how to prepare, cut, cook and present food. Further, the little apprentices received a crash course on how to set a table and serve the guests ... all in three hours!

The result was great fun for all of us. Expat girl proudly took our orders and recommended the dish she had prepared: chicken, ratatouille and mashed potatoes. It took a while to take note of the wine we ordered but the novelty of waitressing her own parents kept the adrenaline going until late at night.

So the service was a little slow and the timing was not perfect but we did get a glance behind the scenes and Expat girl realized how tough restauration can be.

It was an unforgettable evening! And you know what? She said she'd do it again!!!

September 24, 2012

My kids are becoming French!

After a year in the city of lights my kids definately have received a healthy injection of French culture. Along with "la culture generale française" comes the French attitude. They have experenced plenty of that as well.

Here are just a few examples. You know you're kids are becoming French when they:

1.) Can relate the Arc de Triomph to the Champs Elysées.
2.) Know the difference between a Luxemburgerli and a Macaroon.
3.) Show their Daddy how to ride the metro with their Navigo.
4.) Ask for a tradition rather than a baguette at the bakery.
5.) Are experts at slalom-riding their trottinette around dog poop.
6.) Learnt that "Ce n'est paaaas bien ça!" is an attitude rather than a statement.
7.) Appreciate that there are places made of mountains and others made of museums... it still all goes under culture

September 17, 2012

The longest queue ever...

The plan was to visit the Elysée Palace, home to the French president. I biked down to the 8th arrondisement to find the longest queue I have ever seen. It weaved it's way all the way to Place de la Concorde. I kindly asked the people standing at the front of the line how long they had waited; six hours was their answer. Six hours just to see the inside of the sumptuous Elysee Palace which has been the official residence of the Presidents of the Republic since 1874. French people are already familiar with part of the palace that has appeared on television as part of news reports: heads of state are welcomed in the entrance hall, while the traditional July 14th reception is held in the gardens ... therefore ... I will keep moving on swiftly!

I quickly changed my mind and took myself for a nice bikeride along the Seine to enjoy a wonderful sunny aftenoon.

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