September 30, 2014

Bucket list of quotes

Sometimes others can simply say it better. Today, instead of blabbing, I am going to highlight some quotes that have made an impact on me. These are not just random quotes from the web, these are quotes that have changed how I think and more importantly, changed how I act.

"Where there's a will, there's a way"
Samuel Smiles

"Each friend represents a world in us, a world possibly not born until they arrive, and it is only by this meeting that a new world is born."
Anaïs Nin

"You will never be completely at home again, because part of your heart will always be elsewhere. That is the price you pay for the richness of loving and knowing people in more than one place."
Miriam Adeney

"Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage."
Anaïs Nin

"The pessimist complains about the wind; the optimist expects it to change; the realist adjusts the sails."
William Arthur Ward

"Minds are like parachutes - they only function when open."
Thomas Dewar

"Luxury is not a necessity to me, but beautiful and good things are."
Anaïs Nin

"Home is now behind you, the world is ahead!"
Gandalf - the Hobbit

“Make new friends but keep the old ones; one is silver and the other's gold”

"Let your smile change the world, but don’t let the world change your smile."

September 29, 2014

The Definition of Flâneur

The term flâneur comes from the French noun flâneur - which has the basic meanings of "stroller", "lounger", "saunterer" - which itself comes from the French verb flâner, which means "to stroll". Flânerie refers to the act of strolling, with all of its accompanying associations.

The flâneur was, first of all, a literary type from 19th century France, essential to any picture of the streets of Paris. It carried a set of rich associations: the man of leisure, the idler, the urban explorer, the connoiseur of the street. It was Walter Benjamin, drawing on the poetry of Charles Baudelaire, who made him the object of scholarly interest in the twentieth century, as an emblematic figure of urban, modern experience. Following Benjamin, the flâneur has become an important figure for scholars, artists and writers.

In the 1860s, in the midst of the rebuilding of Paris under Napoleon III and the Baron Haussmann, Charles Baudelaire presented a memorable portrait of the flâneur as the artist-poet of the modern metropolis:

"The crowd is his element, as the air is that of birds and water of fishes. His passion and his profession are to become one flesh with the crowd. For the perfect flâneur, for the passionate spectator, it is an immense joy to set up house in the heart of the multitude, amid the ebb and flow of movement, in the midst of the fugitive and the infinite. To be away from home and yet to feel oneself everywhere at home; to see the world, to be at the centre of the world, and yet to remain hidden from the world - impartial natures which the tongue can but clumsily define. The spectator is a prince who everywhere rejoices in his incognito. The lover of life makes the whole world his family, just like the lover of the fair sex who builds up his family from all the beautiful women that he has ever found, or that are or are not - to be found; or the lover of pictures who lives in a magical society of dreams painted on canvas. Thus the lover of universal life enters into the crowd as though it were an immense reservoir of electrical energy. Or we might liken him to a mirror as vast as the crowd itself; or to a kaleidoscope gifted with consciousness, responding to each one of its movements and reproducing the multiplicity of life and the flickering grace of all the elements of life."

Some flaneuses impressions...

September 27, 2014

The challenge of finding a routine

Where can I buy food from my country? How do I find my way around the public transport system? Who makes the best sushi in town? Do you know a tailor? I am hosting a dinner and searching for catering material for 100 people. I need my chairs refurbished. Can you recommend a vet? Where can I work out?

If you've moved abroad, you know the Spiel. Starting daily routine all over again. Beginning from scratch by scouting the most basic necessities in order to get your family settled. Don't even get me started on the doctor search; by the time you've found a good paediatrician, a general practitioner who actually understands what you're saying and a decent dermatologist, it is time to move on again!

However, it is the part I love most about moving, the endless quest of discovering new places, meeting people whom you would have never met had you been comfortable on your home turf, searching for the latest gadget your kids seem not to be able to live without. Every day starts with little missions to conquer your new neighbourhood. Once you feel comfortable in your hood, you start venturing further. You realise how a place can differ with just a 10 minute metro ride!

It is the challenge that keeps me going. The challenge of putting a structure to my life and reaching a daily routine for myself and for my family. Every time you move, it's like a neatly packed stack of cards is being thrown into the air, it then falls on the floor and you need to start sorting it all over again.

And every September old friends move on and leave empty spaces and newcomers arrive. You somehow need to find a new place in your card deck - that you have finally managed to recompose - and your game becomes a little richer in experiences as well as in friendship.

However, in the end it is still YOUR card game and you decide the rules... well, at least that's what I like to think!

September 26, 2014

On the Nordic nature trail...

I am clearly a city girl but sometimes... I wonder?

It is on a day like this, out in the nature blessed with blue skies and kissed by the sun when - deep down - I realise I am after all my mother's daughter.

Surely, it has to do with the fact that I grew up in Switzerland. But also because my mum did drag us into the mountains every spring and fall to go hiking, she did rent a chalet in the most remote area of the alps year after year and took us cross country skiing up the glacier. If we wanted to go skiing we needed to walk down the valley 3km with our skis on our backs in our ski boots. Clearly we had to make our way back up at the end of the day. No cars allowed! No excuses accepted!

This week, while the kids are off on a fieldtrip, I decided to take a little vacation myself and visit friends in Sweden. After living side by side for years in Madrid, I can now finally picture them in their new home near Göteborg.

Their surroundings are very far removed from Paris' city frenzy but I detect similarities with the lifestyle we used to lead in Lugano.

Following my friend's recommendation, I took off for a 6km run around a lake hidden somewhere in the woods of Gotland!

I gave up running about half-way around the lake because the panorama was just too breathtaking to rush through it. I wanted to enjoy every moment.
I climbed up rocks, stumbled over roots, walked around fallen tree trunks, slid down the slippery path, skipped over muddy patches following the dirt track through the thick woodland. Every now and then I'd come across a little sunny spot where the shrubs opened up onto the water.

It is moments like this morning, when I stop to look around, taking in the wonders of nature that surround me, thanking my Mum for instilling the appreciation and admiration of nature in me so many years ago!

September 20, 2014

A regular week in Paris

The past three weeks might have been the best ones in Paris so far. It started with the weather. Paris in the sunshine is beautiful and such a treat! We've enjoyed a September of blue skies and temperatures that literally encourage you to walk around in skirts and sleeveless tops. Oh, and I finally get to wear my beloved Castañer plateau sandals every day!

Lots of back-to-school activities have kept the family busy and it is nice to see a few familiar faces at the Secondary school entrance. Soon even the most ardent parents won't be accompanying their youngsters anymore... the Primary school days are definitely over.

The Parisians are in a good mood, all trying to hang on to the unexpected tail-end of summer and after a week of dressing in black, the dress code has gone colourful again, at least until now!

The cultural agenda is in full swing after the very quiet month of August and I have dove into it with gusto:

Back in Paris

A first-day-of-school photo session beneath the Tour Eiffel

A quick morning coffee at Carette

Avenue Montaigne knows how to kick-start the shopping season

A stroll around the Bienale 2014 at the spectacular Grand Palais

Running my 4th Parisienne

Dragging my hubby off to the Stade de France. Can't miss Beyoncé and Jay-Z!

My old, familiar jog through the Bois de Boulogne 

A Flamenco guitar recital at the Cervantes Institute

Today's colour combination: purple with brown

September 19, 2014

Sit down and listen for a while...

What is it about girl power that invigorates you and puts you back on track just when you need it most?

Feeling a little shaky after my car accident I reluctantly accepted to meet my Latina girlfriends for a coffee after sorting paperwork out at the police station.

Oh boy, I felt so much better after four hugs and a good laugh over a café con leche! The tension had lessened and my brain was thinking about something other than just that scary impact.

A week later, a group whatsapp message went out and within two hours we had reunited seven girls of what my hubby calls the "Sex in the City" ladies for yet another café con leche. This time, it was my Nutrition blogger friend who needed to get her worries off her chest, to vent some anger and count on the moral support and unconditional love of her amigas.

It worked, she walked off an hour later with a big smile on her face ready to enjoy her upcoming holiday.

Sometimes a session in the gym just doesn't do the job even if you'd like to think so!

September 17, 2014

Where in the world...

Paris sounds like a great idea... on paper. For those of you who live here know that like in any big city the motto is: survival of the fittest!

You get used to the waiters treating you as if they were doing you a real big favour, the bus drivers closing the doors on you after you just ran half way down the street and public officers that don't know how to do their job properly.

You live with the grey sky day in and day out, the constant drizzle from October until May, the metro strikes on Monday mornings, the taxi boycott towards the airports on Friday afternoons and the pilots' protests just in time for the holiday period.

You adapt to the garbage trucks passing beneath your bedroom window at six in the morning and the dog poop all over the sidewalks.

You learn not to take the Parisian attitude personally and how to answer back, even though it is not in your nature.

Having summed up the negative points, HOWEVER....

Where else in the world do you:
- get to admire the Eiffel Tower every morning at school drop-off
- watch hundreds of newly-weds having their official wedding picture taken feeling terribly romantic
- take part in any activity that suits your fancy, from cuisine to photography and from art to shopping
- profit from a cultural calendar extraordinarily rich in quality and diversity
- drink wine at lunchtime and everybody thinks it's normal
- enjoy shopping in as many chocolate stores as there are pharmacies
- browse in the hippest concept and pop-up stores in the world
- mingle with the celebrities infront of the entrances of fashion shows
- sign up for a street art tour or follow the traces of the French resistance, not to mention the excitement of a visit to the city's sewers
- take part in Europe's largest lady's race with 35'000 women running under the Eiffel Tower
- savour a Flamenco guitar recital in a cultural centre one day and participate in a world class rock concert in a huge football stadium the next
- follow the president's menage à trois when he never married in the first place and all the beans are spilled in a book

So there, it is not all that bad, life in Paris. You just need to understand what works best for you and your family. Paris does not offer conviviality but it is brimming with diversity.

I am now off for a run through the Bois de Boulogne...

September 14, 2014

La Parisienne - Year 4

This morning I participated in Europe's largest feminine race and marked the beginning of my 4th year in Paris. Upon my arrival from Lugano to the city of lights in September 2011 I decided to start with a bang by signing up for "La Parisienne". It was quite the Parisian experience!

 Today I was running the 6,7km along with 35'000 other women, all of us totally motivated and full of positive vibes! There were pink wigs, purple tutus, neon leg warmers, leopard-printed leggings, fake boobs, fun hair rollers, oversize sunglasses and funny animal ears to be seen, just to mention a few.

Various companies had put up teams. The Boucheron girls looked liked they had just stepped out of the jewellery store. The George V team looked very sporty and poised in purple tank tops, la Gym Suedoise did have a distinct Swedish touch, the Carrefour team turned up by the hundreds but seemed to be pretty out of shape, Yoplait were looking sharp in their bright outfit and Groupama seemed to be having a ball, screaming and shouting every time they passed a music band along the way. They were also pretty fit runners, I might add, as was the George V team!

After a quick warm-up session to the tunes of the Beach Boys (loving it!) on this chilly morning, we started in waves of approx. 2000 girls, pretty big wave, ehh? We were cheered on by all the Dads and kids standing all along the side walk from the starting to the finishing line. Some with home-made posters cheering "Maman, tu est la meilleures!".

Samba groups, Classical Music ensembles, Gospel singers, African musicians even a Scottish Bag pipe band encouraged us to keep going! Kudos to the pink lady band who walked the entire stretch playing their instruments, some of them quite cumbersome and heavy!

Every year, I end up spending more time standing on the Pont d'Iena waiting to start than running the actual race but who's complaining? The idea of standing underneath the impressive Eiffel Tour, participating in the drive to raise awareness for breast cancer and just being part of one of Paris's yearly highlights kept me smiling all the way across the finishing line.

Vivent les Parisiennes!!!

September 10, 2014

Paris is always a good idea!

It's time to leave... in theory!

The plan was to stay in Paris for three years, the typical expat length of stay. By now, I should have been either in full swing preparation for our next move or already scouting out our new location en-lieu.

Instead I am sitting here at my desk in Paris.

Not a bad option you might think. I have come to the same conclusion!
But let me start at the beginning.

We are a family that LIKE moving. In my theory you either do it once or twice and then you're done or else... you are hooked! I am hooked!

I will quite happily move from Shanghai to New York and from Singapore to Rio, as long as it is a big city with an acceptable climate!

The kids have adapted and know it is part of the game. They know we follow Daddy's work which nowadays is a privilege in itself!

It became quite clear about a year ago that plans might change and sure enough there is no move on the horizon, not even on the far horizon.

The kids are at secondary school and at an age where it is probably a good thing that we are carving ourselves a new "permanent" home. My hubby loves his job and I, well, I am starting to think Paris is probably the best place to be in Europe (apart from Madrid, of course).

It is true, we say farewell to friends year after year but we also continue to meet new interesting people. By now, I consider myself part of the Welcome Back committee to all my friends who have moved on and systematically return to visit. It is a treat to reunite with them, even if only for a day.

I am getting so good at it, I have been asked by the school to help organise a Welcome Workshop for new parents arriving to Paris this year. There is no other project I'd rather help doing.

As Audrey Hepburn once said: "Paris is always a good idea!"

September 7, 2014

It's the!

It's the!

Every morning, the same ritual. Rushing out of the front door just in time to see the No.22 bus pass in front of our nose before we sprint down the avenue pass the huge scaffoldings avoiding cars driving in and out of garages to the near bus stop.

A friendly "Bonjour Monsieur" to the driver albeit slightly out of breath. A smile to the two Moroccan ladies who's Arabic chatter always accompanies us throughout the bus ride. A greeting to the two Philippine girls who are off to work. A little chat with the Russian mum and her three small kids.

After riding the same route to school with the public bus every morning at 8:35 for the past three years, we know the characters sitting in every row. A feeling of familiarity and therefore a tiny little bit like home.

We know who gets on at which stop and who gets off where. We invent stories about our fellow bus riders' lives. We check out the window display every morning of the most dazzling haute couture shop, deciding which dress we would dare to wear. In winter, we see the Christmas trees all bundled up lying in front of the florists' and in spring watch the men dressed in business suits sprinting to grab the last Velib bike.

I love the early morning bus rides with my daughter even though I'm not much of a morning person. She, on the other hand, never stops talking. What does a lawyer do? What is an insurance? Please explain what M.Holland does? Heavy duty subjects for an 11 year old.

I explain as best I can while walking the last stretch to school. Many a times we decide we need to google a particular question after school and then forget what it was we were suppose to look up.

However, we never ever forget to turn towards La Grande Dame when the bus drives past her across the enormous Place de Trocadero and every morning with a little meditation and a smile, we greet la Tour Eiffel feeling grateful for living in such a beautiful city.

Expat Daughter started Secondary School this week and is off to school by herself.

I miss our morning bus rides more than she will ever know!

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