October 30, 2013

Zip Zap - from one home to another

Zip zap... and we go from Swiss mode to Spanish mode in less than two hours. The time of an easyjet flight!

We switch languages, phones and attitude. We drive cars with local number plates and are happy to order certain foods again - that we missed so dearly - but are unpronounceable for foreigners.

If anybody would have told me years ago that my family would have three "homes" and feel at home in three different countries, I would have replied that we are not schizophrenic.

However, time and expericence have taught me differently. We left Lugano heavy-heartedly this afternoon where we had settled for over four years with the intention of settling down forever. That, of course did not happen, which is why we now live in Paris - our new home.

Spain - where we lived for three years - is where we relax and still spend the summer. We also consider Madrid our home.

This evening, the minute we landed at Barajas airport, our nostalgia for Lugano had passed as we were greeted by our friend "Mamita Cubana" with a big smile, a hug AND dinner. What a treat?!

So, should I be worried about my kids not knowing where they belong? No, I believe that it is up to them to carve their destiny and when they are old enough they will decide where their home will be. In the meantime, all they need to do is switch the chip everytime the plane lands!

However, it will, without a doubt, be a bit more difficult to switch back to French mode when schools starts again next week.

October 29, 2013

What is a webinar?

Yesterday I came across a fellow blogger's post that recommended an Expat webinar. Ah, my interest was peaked.

What is a webinar, I wondered? Is it a conference call or a skype conversation? Can I wear my PJs while I participate? Given that the webinar originated in Australia and 10 am in Sydney equalled midnight here in Europe this was a valid question. Did I need to prop my background in case I am live online?

At 23:58 - and after having paid my 29AU$ - I connected to the webinar site and logged in. I was welcomed with a slide presentation and a lady's voice with a charming Australian accent, Mrs Trisha Carter is her name. Thinking about it, I had to sit back a second and picture myself: here I am, sitting comfortably at my desk at midnight attending a webinar being held on the other side of the globe with people from every posssible corner of the world. The mind boggles.

During this forty-minute interactive webinar, we discussed how expat partners can build satisfying lives in their new locations. Admittedly, after countless moves the discussion sounded very familiar and customary to me. I was along for the ride because of the medium - the webinar - rather than the practical counselling!

The best advice was: "Your fastest route to engagement is knowing your strenghts and using them on a daily basis." I can vouch for that.

A little disappointed that after 40 minutes we were left with only half the webinar completed which means they will be back for more money in order to complete the five pillars of well-being. THAT is not fair, this little detail was not mentioned when I signed up.

I guess I'll be staying up for a few more nights hoping I won't turn into a pumpkin at midnight! And no, they can't see me online!!!

October 28, 2013

Happy Birthday, Pumpkin

My thirteen year old just walked out the door waving good-bye to me on his way to a sleepover. With a big smile on my face, but a little heavy-hearted, I wave back.

When I see him tomorrow, he will be fourteen! What happend to my little boy? He is now taller than I, he beats me at tennis and outspeeds his Dad at karting.

I remember his first steps in Argentina, his fear of Cruella De Vil at Disney, the hours spent sitting on the floor in his room in Milano playing with airplanes and cars while it was pouring outside, the "Vamos Ronaldo" poster we painted which he proudly took along to his first Real Madrid football match, how happy he was to discover the huge football pitch behind our house overlooking the Swiss mountains, his disappointment when he stepped around the corner in Paris to see his school did not include a football pitch.

A few months ago he proudly declared that we soon could not go to the cinema together anymore because we did not enjoy the same kind of films. Feeling a little guilty, he added, unless maybe if it were a Bond movie.

When he asked me, last Saturday, to take him to a market in Paris, I did not make him ask twice. I jumped at the occassion knowing this will not be happening very often from now on. Admittedly, I ventured out to a rather dubious part of town for a real Parisian Saturday morning market experience, knowing full well he would be happy his Mummy was right next to him. Ok, so I was a little naughty!

But it is nice to know that you have raised a responsible, conscientious, appreciative young man who looks after his little sister and cares as much about his close friends as he does about his immediate family.

He is turning into a young adult, and I'll be nudging him along this path conscious and appreciative of every moment he still needs and wants his Mummy. It won't last forever!

However... he still has a long way to go before he beats me down the slope on skis!

Happy 14th Birthday Pumpkin!

October 27, 2013

Cooking with "Las Ketchup girls"

I consider myself a lucky lady. I might have lost a few friends due to their relocation but I still have "Las Ketchup"! Do you remember the Spanish lady trio singing: "Aserejé"? Well, my three Spanish friends - whom I have baptized The Ketchup girls - do love their food, as any respectable Latina. What better way to have lunch than to cook it yourself and be inspired by a chef concocting a new menu you can present at your next dinner party and impress you hubby with?

So, I rounded my friends up and enrolled all of us in a one-hour Express lunch cooking course at L'Atelier des Chefs. Located in a clean, well-organized atelier in the center of town, the professional but kind chef let us in onto the secrets of French cooking. Did you know the difference of cooking potatoes starting with a pan of cold water vs hot water?

Maria was forced to peel potatoes with an "économe", Belen got to chop "les châtaignes" and Arantxa was happy to spice up the salmon with some chili-peppered salt! I was busy taking photos while our Germanic friend was diligently mashing the pumpkin/potatoe mix.

The dirty cutting boards and dishes were miraculously cleaned away the minute we looked away. Can I have that kitchen fairy in my house, please? Within 30 minutes flat we had a delicous rosmary-steamed salmon accompanied by a exquisite pumpkin mousse covered with a splitter of chestnuts. Only the French manage to convert fish & chips into an utterly sophisitcated sounding dish... but ... delicious it was ... and it will impress our hubbies to no end!

October 26, 2013

Absolument excentrique

"Absolument excentrique" was the exhibit's title. How can I resist? I loooove excentric things. I like people who think differently and put their vision into a creation that differs from the norm.

Little did I know about the exposition I was about to visit.

The art came across as children's work but then again the citations alongside where adult thoughts - some of them written in child's caligraphy and others with an adult touch.

As I came to the end of the tour around the Hotel de Ville's foyer, I watched the documentary of this event and realized: The exhibition stages the artistic creation of persons with mental or psychological disabilities, allowing them to build greater social inclusion! For this, the scenery was meant to be accessible and fun, in the form of a brightly coloured maze and revealing works that could be read on many levels, which would not exclude any visitor.

What a brilliant chance for this group of youngsters to exhibit their art publicly in the center of Paris. These are the moments when you realize the potential of a grand city, a city like Paris, that has the interest and the framework in promoting art and culture.

There are many different ways to do so and this is truely an excentric approach which makes you stop your frantic city lifestyle for a moment to reflect about others.

A small but moving collection that is worth taking the time to visit.

October 17, 2013

Victim of it's own success

So, we never made it into the building of Paris 13 Tour but who's looking? The intention was there, the company was fun and it did get us out into the 13th arrondissement.

The tower slated for demolition end of 2013 has become home to largest group street art exhibition ever. Nine dedicated floors, 36 four or five-room apartments have become the medium for urban artists representing 16 different nationalities. This project that for many months voluntarily remained confidential has caused up to five hours of queueing over the past weekend, it must therefore definately be worth a visit.

I actually remember walking by that place last year (on my way to John Galliano's fashion show!!!) and taking pictures of the orange blob that featured on the building's front for months without anybody really knowing why!

September 2012

October 2013

Feeling very clever, I suggested to my fellow explorers:"Let's meet an hour before opening, hopefully we'll be the first ones inside when they open up." I came speeding around the corner and couldn't believe my eyes. The queue was already all around the block, literally!

We diligently stood in line when - after about 20 minutes of hardly moving forward - I decided to investigate.

A friendly, rather bored looking security guard let me in on the secret.

Walking back along the snake of people I announced my findings: "The good news is we can go for lunch because the bad news is that the line is at least 3 hours long!

Now, I am willing to queue for a while but three hours is pushing it!

My backup plan was lunch. Not far down the river lies the (in)famous Batofar, a place where all new musical tendencies meet, a real headlight boat originally from Ireland and parked just in front of the National Library. It is THE emblematic vessel of the capital. Tucked away at the stern of this creaky, slightly swaying peniche we had a delicious French dish overlooking the Seine.

And as we were heading back to pick up our kids from school two hours later, we wondered whether the youngsters standing line just behind us were still queuing!!!

I might not have managed to enter the building but the outside allowed for great pictures as well!

October 10, 2013

Madame, La Présidente!

The choice was either the Ralph Lauren Gala evening or Caran d'Ache's launch of a new aquarelle pencil in Paris' oldest art shop.

I had my priorities straight. How could I resist going back in my footsteps to the company which had offered me my first job over twenty years ago? Yes, my friends say I am a loyal person. I took my stylish hubby by the hand and off we went to Quai Voltaire to support Madame, LA Présidente of Caran d'Ache.

The little rickety art shop - opened in 1887 by owner Gustave Sennelier - is the ultimate eye candy for somebody who loves colours like myself. Monsieur Sennelier created original colours for "neighborhood artists" whom included Cézanne, Picasso, Van Gogh, and Gaugin. Who knows, maybe some of the artists attending last night's event might become as famous?

Certainly Patrice Baffou who gave us a demo on Caran d'Ache's Museum watercolor pencils had a remarkable portfolio to show.

I take great pleasure in seeing how this family business is blooming in the traditional Swiss manner: "Klein, aber fein" (small but excellent). Holding up against the global trend of bigger, faster, cheaper, Caran d'Ache has kept its "Made in Switzerland" quality and standards. Madame, LA Présidente has brought a breath of fresh air to the PR & marketing strategy and decades of effort and dedication by the entire company staff has kept the little engine that could going strong.

BRAVO! My heart and voice will always be a strong advocate of Caran d'Ache's values, philosophy and products!

October 9, 2013

Following Victor Hugo's footsteps...

Transported back in time, we followed the footsteps of Victor Hugo on a chilly, drizzly October morning.

Our guide's good spirits made up for the meteo and her lively mannerisms kept us all spell-bound to her words. Us all, meaning a group of 20 mums totaling 14 nationalities. Everytime I take a minute to reflect on this fact, I can't help but imagining what an efficient, experienced and flexible a team we would make for any International company. Yet, here we are devoted to our husbands and kids being PIMs (Professional International Movers).

Anyways, back to Victor Hugo.

We had a fascinating walk in the Marais-Bastille district to learn about Victor Hugo, and to see how his life and times influenced the poignant story Les Miserables.

We heard about his life and the tragic story of the death of his much loved daughter, who was the inspiration for the character of Cosette. The walk showed some intriguing sights including the remains of the Bastille fortress, as well as the Bastille square where we heard the story of this fateful prison, and learned how the revolutions of the 19th century which Victor Hugo lived through and was eye witness to, shaped the story.

We admired the St Martin Canal, Victor Hugo’s house on the place des Vosges, and places where he set certain scenes in the book such as the Maison de Sully and the Church of St. Paul.

My mind got a mental jog trying to retrieve recollections of long gone highschool French readings of Les Miserables. Those were the days when French was a subjet you hated not a language to speak!

They say you learn with age. Today, I can say I truely enjoyed my lesson of French.

Victor Hugo's house

Place des Voges
Arches around Place des Voges

Hotel de Sully dressed in Pink for breast cancer awareness month

Back alley of Church St.Paul

Prefecture de Police

Port de Plaisance

Parisian graffiti

October 6, 2013

Uncovering the Knights Templars

The school year has started and with it, Mona's famous tours around Paris. For two years I have been following Mona and her team of extraordinary guides into different corners of the city, letting myself be swept away into past epochs of "grandeur francaise", and it is fascinating.

Today we were off to discover Medieval Paris and the Templars. I had yet to learn what exactly templars were! Templars - officially endorsed by the Catholic Church around 1129 - were among the most wealthy and powerful of the Western Christian military orders and were among the most prominent actors of the Christian finance. The organization existed for nearly two centuries during the Middle Ages.

Walking through an area often ignored by visitors, we came across the oldest house in Paris, built by the alchemist Nicolas Flamel. We heard the story of the Order of the Knights' Templar, their links to the area, and their spectacular downfall.

The beautiful medieval architecture of the Abbey of St Martin was also on our itinerary; home of the Benedictines - an ancient religious order that kept the flame of civilization lit through the Dark Ages.

We listened to stories of the famous inventor Blaise Pascal and why his statue stands at the foot of the St Jacques' tower, recently restored to its former splendour.

We visit the spot where Henry IV was assassinated by the mad monk Ravaillac in 1610 and discovered traces in Les Halles of the Innocents, once the largest cemetery in the capital. I was now walking on the very spot I had read about this past summer in a book entitled "Pure".

The tour ended at the intriguing Saint Merri Church which houses the oldest bell in Paris, cast in 1331.

October 4, 2013

Define Kitsch!

Today's challenge came from an Australian friend: "Define Kitsch!". So, my German friend and I took one glance at each other and smiled. How do you explain the meaning of Kitsch, especially if you actually LIKE it? Bright, fun, out-of-ordinary, artistic, ornate, are adjectives we came up with. We coincided that Kitsch was not a pejorative word even though the dictionary classifies it as "design considered to be in poor taste".

This entire conversation was taking place at the mythical Plaza Athenée, famed for its Haussmann-style façade lined with elegant red awnings overlooking prestigious Avenue Montaigne. They will be putting a selection of the hotel's furniture and decorative items for auction next week and we couldn't resist a peek viewing. How could we, knowing that the famous guests staying at the Athénée over the years included Mata Hari (who was arrested here), Josephine Baker, Rudolph Valentino, Grace Kelly, Jean Harlow, Gary Cooper and the legendary Jackie Kennedy?

If I had to choose a piece to take home, it would definitely be the bar. It actually changes colours like a Christmas tree. Does that sound like Kitsch to you? Needless to say I wouldn't have anywhere to put it. But it's always nice to imagine yourself sipping a cocktail with Josephine Baker.

Walking out of the hotel - and off my cloud - I came up with the perfect lunch proposal. What better place to take my friends off to, than the infamous Miss Ko?

The restaurant’s name and identity are based around the character of miss Ko, a young, sexy but eternally mysterious symbol of Asia, and the embodiment of its traditions and its strangeness. It's a place where cultures collide and fantasy rules, where Phillipe Starck has channelled his limitless creative madness featuring a most unusual 26m long table running the length of the restaurant, entirely made from digital screens, each playing news channels from all over Asia.

Parisians might call it design or a tasteful mix of high tech but if you ever need an example of Kitch, THIS is the place to seek, by joining Starck on his psychedelic trip.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...