April 30, 2013

A very proud Mummy

We were sitting around a table in an Italian pizzeria in the 15th arrondissement. It was a family reunion to celebrate Expat girls' excellent performance in her school show.

Expat girl was brimming with happiness, bathing in all the attention she was receiving.

All of Expat boys' interest lies in football and football only... at least for the time being...

What better moment to coax my boy into volunteering for the upcoming Secondary School play? Enwrapped by the theatrical vibes of the evening and captivated by the family's enthusiasm he agreed to audition and proptly got the part of a knight!

And then the fight began, he complained about the play, he moaned how he didn't get to say his lines because the others needed more practice, he whined that he had to sacrifice his lunch hours and he was furious he had to get up early three Saturdays in a row for rehearsals.

Finally the big moment came and the entire family, including Nonna from Italy and our much-loved nanny all took their seats in the audience excitedly waiting for THE knight to appear on stage.

Of couse I am totally biased and he will always be my big baby, but boy, did Expat boy look handsome in his dark blue and gold-laced costume?! His posture was worthy of a knight and his stance truly Italian macho, therefore the combination resulted in a brilliant performance. Most importantly, while watching him, I actually felt as if he was enjoying the show.

As my boy and I were walking along the boulevard towards the Italian pizzeria nearby to celebrate his performance, he wispered something into my ear that put an enormous smile of happiness on my face. What did he say? "Mummy, it was all worth it!"

April 24, 2013

Only the French shine at "savoir-faire"

It seems to be my week of luxury hotels. Visiting the hotel Crillon last week before it closed its doors left me with a bitter-sweet aftertaste. This was to be remedied by celebrating the Hotel Plaza Athenée's 100th year birthday.

In the luxury business, the French have a talent to present their savoir-faire skills in a way that only they manage to such perfection. Their know-how to drape clients in veils of luxury and present their product in a most delicate and precious light, in the most graceful elegance and tempting situtation is unbeatable.

The Italians have the gifts of charm and design but the French have the savoir-faire.

All this sprang to my mind when we were invited to follow the red carpet and uncover the hotels' different metiers (trades) and savoir-faire (know-how).

We watched a hard-working carpenter varnish a wooden board, a maid display the eight different pillows you could choose from during your stay, a shoe-shiner smoothly polish gentlemens' shoes, a babysitter show off the hotels' children's accessories, three flower arrangers present colourful bouquets perfectly in harmony with their surroundings, patissier chefs that presented their skills in flambeing crepes suzettes before our eyes, and a sommelier capturing a magical champagne moment for the guest.

In English all of the above would be simply called: staff! Not so in one of the most sophisticated hotels of Paris on Avenue Montaigne. It is all about savoir-faire. After all, Paris is the capital of luxury.

April 22, 2013

Just a regular lesson in Paris

I finally plucked up the courage to launch myself into a computer course today. For years I've been meaning to get some formal training in blogging and coding.

On a chilly morning I trekked out to the 12th arrondissement - full of car concessionaires as far as I could tell - to enter a little house brimming with vintage that you'll only find in Paris. From Atari video game console from 1980, a mac with floppy disks from 1984, jukeboxes from the 60s, bar furniture from the 70's, a plastic mannequin Darth Vader to paintings of Lenin speaking to the crowds. Turns out it used to be a butcher shop.

This place was definately talking to me, I knew at that instant I had chosen the right course of the hundreds offered on the net. Even if I weren't to learn a single thing, this location had character and had been worth the trip.

Turns out, the other partcipants were not a bunch of housewives looking for a past time as I had feared but four entrepreneurs searching to expand their business activity.

It felt like a breath of fresh air to meet new people who live in a utterly different world and dive into their interests and hear their opinions on life. The view of a cool graphist from Tours, a PR power woman from the banlieu (suburbs), a Marketing specialist launching a new business and young consultant full of illusions can give you a whole new take on Paris. Forget the Expat bubble for a day.

The course was informative but not eye-opening but then again I did not expected anything else. The company and the inspiration that came from its participants made it a day that will leave a strong imprint on my stay here in Paris.

April 21, 2013

Let me believe ... just for a moment

A real treat was in store for me today and I don't mean the sunshine. Eventhough, today's weather in itself would be worth an entire blogpost as we FINALLY enjoyed a sunny, warm day after six months of grim, grey, drab conditions and I am NOT exaggerating!

However, I had planned for a family outing to the most mythical Parisian palace. I would be a princess if only for a second. And sure enough, walking in through the beautiful revolving door of the Hotel Crillon, I found myself immediately carried to the 18th century décor of Louis XV, with numerous types of Italian marble and Baccarat crystal chandeliers. The doorman, the flowers arrangements, the scent of luxury all transported me into another world ... if only for a minute.

Soon enough, the shoving and pushing of the people behind us brought me back to reality with a crash.

This legendary palace is closing its doors to write the next chapter of its illustrious history... not for good ... the grand reopening is scheduled for 2015. But before the final curtain call, the Parisian hotel was put on display for the public to live a piece of it's magic. We were allowed to browse through certain rooms and areas to admire the antique furniture, lamps, silver and porcelain, as well as fine wines and spirits that will be among the 3,500 lots for auction next week.

The Hotel Crillon has a reputation as one of the most beautiful hotels in the world. Internationally renowned since 1909, this historic residence was built in 1775 and acquired in 1788 by the Comte de Crillon. It has continually welcomed heads of state and celebrities, from cinema and fashion. The most famous suite is Louis XVI.

The Crillon is also known for the annual "Bal des Débutantes", a media event that brings together the daughters of celebrities, aristocrats, artists and politicians. The "Debs" make their couture and media premieres in gowns designed by French haute couture as well as French and foreign couture houses.

This is as close as I'll ever get to royalty life-style, but even that has come to an end... at least for the moment! No doubt, there will soon be a yearning for the fairy-tale to continue.

A typical Crillon suite recreated in the Salle de Marie Antoinette

Perfect place for a book nook

Bouquet and vase are a perfect match to drapes and settee

Suite reserved for artists and stars for after-concert treats

Suite Louis XV for the king who commissioned this hotel in 1758

Louis XV Bedroom Suite

The table where my friend invited me to good-by lunch before she moved back to the US

Dedication to the Comte de Crillon

What colour will the new awnings be?

Last one turn the lights off, please!

April 17, 2013

Paris in the springtime

Apparently last Sunday was the warmest day of the last two hundred days. Now that is over 6 months of bad weather! BUT.... things are looking up! However, before the meteo goes back to normal - i.e. Parisian grey - a fun-loving International bunch of ladies decided to hold a picnic. Our American-Japanese friend suggested we visit the Jardins de Albert Khan in pursuit of blossoming cherry trees. What a brillant idea! For a short while we felt as if we had been transported to a garden in Japan. We might have gotten told off for picnicking in the gardens but we were allowed to finish our alfresco meal and we thoroughly enjoyed the first rays of this seasons' sunshine.

April 16, 2013

A different view on Avenue Faubourg Sainte-Honoré

Everyone knows that Avenue Faubourg Saint-Honoré is Paris' luxury mile covered with brand flagship stores from Hermès to Yves Saint-Laurent. It represents France's renowned tradition of quality and attention to detail as well as its inimitable sense of luxury.

Enjoying the newly-found sunshine I decided to take a stroll down the road of glamour in search of a different kind of perspective. Here are my impressions:

My next parure of travel luggage

Welcome at any time

Architectural design

Traditional doorhandle

Gates to luxury

Louis Vuitton in the works

A bank entrance ... private bank no doubt!

Keeping the facade neat and tidy

At your service

Running late

Searching for Ladurée Macaron store

A fairytale place for a coffee

If I had a car...

Let spring begin!
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