June 30, 2014

June 28, 2014

Not again...

Oh dear. It's happening again. It is the time of year we look forward to, but dread the most at the same time. We can't wait for summer to finally hit Paris, to see the sun and start wearing skirts and sandals. The long holidays are on our door step and the end-of-school-year excitement is pulpable in the air.

If only, there wasn't that little hitch called farewells. We are busy with activities, performances, sleepovers, goodbye breakfasts and parting dinners. We skip from one emotion to the next. From happy to sad, from abandoned to cherished, from supported to betrayed. It's a roller coaster.

I know how hard it is to leave behind your life - along with your friends - but you have a new adventure waiting for you the other end. Of course, you'll feel lost and frustrated at moments but you'll be so busy carving a new space for yourself and putting so much effort into making the new move work (for your kids sake first and foremost, since the hubbies have their work cut out for them upon arrival at their new job) that before you know it, you'll have created a new routine and even made a friend or two along the way.

For those of us staying behind, you leave a gaping hole. We pass by your house and know you aren't there any longer, we hop on the metro and remember this used to be your metro station, we see a Velib car and it makes us smile, we walk through the bois de Boulogne and get lost in memories of you, we step into the boulangerie and know exactly what you would have ordered, we see a colour and think of you, we know which brand of macaron was your favourite. The emptiness is overwhelming sometimes and we try to distract ourselves using our powers of reasoning but the heart does not negotiate.

So amidst, laughter and tears, I bid you farewell and promise I will be standing under the Eiffel Tower with a box of macarons waiting for you to come fill that hole in my heart.

June 25, 2014

Her first concert...

It's a surprise! A surprise for my little girl's 11th birthday.  We are off to the Stade de France for her first concert. One Direction here we come!

Not knowing quite what to expect we took off early. The RER were on strike but with a little patience we arrived half an hour before time, like thousands of other girls accompanied by their Mums.

An overpowering Stade de France with a capacity of 80'000 people is already packed when we find our way to our seats and I can't help but to wonder if Simon Cowell had any idea what he was on to when he put these five boys together on Britain's Got Talent four years ago.

Clearly the boys seem impressed when they finally get on to the stage. But wait, that didn't happen until three hours later.

First we waited an hour watching the six same video clips over and over again until an Australian boy group called 5SoS (5 Seconds of Summer) came on stage and all the Mummys thought they were 1D?!? Get your facts straight Mums. They look the same, they sing the same but there are only four of them, therefore NOT One Direction! The few Dads present, meanwhile had started watching the World Cup match France vs Switzerland on their smartphones! They were clearly not impressed with their daughters' infatuation!

Expat girl and I decided to head outside the stadium for a snack. We found ourselves a little spot in the evening sun and munched on a Snickers bar giggling wondering what to expect next.

After listening to the same videos for yet another hour from outside the stadium, the moment finally had come. We rushed back to our seats and sure enough: one by one, the boys bounced on stage and the stadium went down in screams. I'm thinking: this is what it must have been like when the Beatles debarked in America. WOW!

Teenage girls were screaming and crying all around me while holding up their smartphones to film the stage. The stadium was going berserk. This is fun. It's vibrating, it's emotional and there are happy vibes coming from all sides!

It was exhilarating to see the kids engaging in live music and reacting to these boys (whom by now are nearly men I might add) rather than having their faces stuck in their mobile devices.

So, there we were, Mummy and Daughter, dancing, singing and screaming along with all the rest of them having the time of our lives! And for one whole hour I felt like I was 16 again! ;)

June 22, 2014

Champagne breakfast at 115m

A simple invitiation. Yet so intriguing.
A familiar place. Yet never explored on foot.

Last week I found this delightful (despite being yet another farewell) message in my inbox:
"I'd like to say au revoir to you, and to Paris ... by climbing the Eiffel tower with you. Yes, using the stairs. Up there, I want to treat you to a secret champagne breakfast, although I am not sure if that is allowed :)."

This is a girl after my own heart. She just managed to combine friendship, creativity, complicity, sports, alcohol and Paris all in one. And by doing so turned a rather sad fact into a happy event. Bravo and Thank you my friend.

So, off we went at 9am beating all the tourists, ready to climb the approx. 1000 steps all in one go. Six ladies from six different countries on a mission.

First, though, we needed to get past the security check. My clever friend had investigated beforehand and was aware that no glass bottle were aloud, therefore she was equipped with green plastic Perrier bottles. Yup, you guessed it! The lady had funnelled Moet&Chandon into sparkling water bottles in order to get them up the Eiffel Tower. Goes to show: Where there is a will there is a way!

After a relatively easy climb and lots of admiration of the fantastic view, we found ourselves a bench and spread out. Pain au chocolat, pain aux raisins, chouquettes and fruit accompanied our endless supply of "Perrier". The guard walked past by us twice with a frown on his face but did not dare to spoil our fun. We spent the entire morning on the second floor of the Eiffel Tower enjoying each others company and appreciating the good side of Paris. 

I will never climb the Eiffel Tower again without thinking of you, my quiet, creative & resourceful friend. Bon voyage, Good luck and Thank you for leaving a lovely memento in my heart.

June 19, 2014

Time to go

A friend ask me today if I was all right. She said I looked sad. Oh dear, is it really written all over my face?

I try not to think about it too much, try to take one day at the time but by next week many of our family's friends will be leaving Paris. The beginning of summer with the long school holidays are suppose to be a festive occasion, instead, when you are an Expat it is a sweet&sour affair. You look forward to the holidays but you dread the moment you'll have to wave goodbye to your friends who are moving on.

The worst part is having to watch your kids say goodbye to their best friends. You just stand there watching them cry and there is not a thing you can do about it, except promise that you will visit them sometime soon.

We have completed our third year in Paris and most people whom arrived with us three years ago are leaving or have left already. There are only a handful of us remaining for round four, five, six or even longer!

I feel as if we had all been deployed together but that the troops are going back home now and I am left behind to hold the fort, without knowing for how long or if the others will ever be back.

Well my friends, I will be waving the "Welcome back" sign when you return to visit Paris with a big smile on my face! But it just won't be the same anymore.

Good luck and Bon voyage to all of you!

June 17, 2014

World Cup fever: rooting for our country

It is bad enough when they ask you what country you come from, now we have to decide which country to root for!

This is when I envy my neighbours - the ONLY moment, trust me! Their life is simple even though they are expats. I would not dare compare myself with a local, THAT is a whole different ball game I will write about another time.

Our neighbours' kids were born in one country, both their parents come from that country and that country is their home, fair and square! It makes things so much easier when you're watching the World Cup.

Yes, we have been caught by the fever. How could we not? Between my Italian hubby and my Argentinean son ... et voilà ... our first dilemma: which team are we to support? A tough choice for any football connoisseur.

By now we are close to a political melt-down in our household. We have hung a tiny Swiss flag out of our balcony (courtesy of Credit Suisse!). Yes, my heart is with Switzerland. Expat husband has made clear he is not having an Argentinean flag hanging out of the window since we live amongst various South American embassies and we don't want to provoke any undesired reactions!

We could hang out the Spanish flag since all four of us left a piece of our heart in Madrid and are Real Madrid supporters... hasta la muerte!

Wouldn't it be lovely if Brazil won the World Cup and we can all celebrate by dancing Samba late into the night? Because should the Brazilians win, the party is guaranteed to be the absolute best!

June 12, 2014

Benvenuti a Parigi

The advantages of being an Expat is that, once in a while, you receive rather glamorous cocktail invitations. Such was the case last week when Italy celebrated it's Republic (National) Day.

I had my nails done, my hair set, and showed off my latest aquisition, a bright coloured, geometrical patterned dress and a pair of orange sandal with 15 cm of heel. (I'm not sure they'd technically pass as sandals?). And, of course, the matching handbag!

Geared up to the max, I accompanied my hubby to the lavishing Italian embassy in Rue Varenne.

Walking into the stone-cobbled courtyard, we came across a Maserati from 19?? which supposedly had won a F1 championship in it's hey-days. Italians and their cars... it is an eternal love story!

We were greeted by the Ambassador and his wife and were shown along into the garden. A garden that resembled a curated parc bordered with rhododendrons and statues lining the pebbled path. Sumptuous would be the word.

SCROUMPTIOUS is what I would call the buffet. Not one, but four buffets were laid out offering octopus risotto, melanzane alla parmigiana, fresh real Italian mozzarella, salami and focaccia.
Sfogliatelle, pastiera, baba al rhum, gelato and strawberries were difficult desserts to choose from, so I just a bit of each!

At this point I am wondering who are the Italians out to impress? Then I remembered, Italy will be holding the Presidency of the Council of the European Union as of this summer! And their biggest alley is France, therefore must be treated and chouchouter (pampered) accordingly!

While the Italian ambassador is giving his speech addressing the guests in near perfect French and I am watching him standing in front of his impressive residence, I can't help thinking of our Italian experience in New York a few weeks ago. This is a far cry away from Little Italy.

June 10, 2014

This is what you get...

Expat girl and I have just returned from a lovely weekend in Norway full of sun and games. I was probably asking for a reaction when - upon my return to Paris - I posted this photo on my facebook page:

And sure enough I got it. My dear friends gave me more than I bargained for. This is what THEY posted:

Each one sent me a screenshot of their location. It made me smile because it proves how connected we still are. No matter how far away we are or how long we haven't actually seen each other, they still give me a piece of their mind. Thanks girls. I have learnt my lesson: "Shut up and stop ranting on about the weather. We all know it's the price you pay for living in such a beautiful city!"

June 9, 2014

En norsk vennskap (A Norwegian friendship)

They say Norwegians are funny people. Funny, as in direct and maybe a little harsh. Well, I like direct and honest. It comes straight from the heart.

We are cultivating our friendship and have trekked up to the far North to visit our friends who left Paris over a year ago.

Guess what, we have bought the sunshine with us!

I am sitting on the terrasse of their summer cabin (a very sophisticated cabin, I might add) enjoying the open view over the endless fjord, the intense Northern light and the perfect silence. I feel like a character out of one of the Scandinavian children's books I used to read.

The silence is soon interrupted by screaming kids jumping off the rocks into the freezing seawater, friendly neighbours dropping by for Norwegian waffles and coffee, friends arriving on their sailboat staying for a BBQ dinner.

I have swam in the freezing fjord, enjoyed a hot sauna, discovered the ancient Viking game of Kul, spotted a deer while Nordic walking through the woods (I now know the real meaning of Nordic walking!), stood on a roof top to admire the sunset at 11pm, tasted delicious Norwegian strawberries and am fast discovering that I can get by speaking Swiss German. My friend's two-year old and I have the most interesting conversations crossing invisible language borders!

No TV, no internet and no radio means that you spend time talking to each other. It is a treat to be invited into a typical Norwegian weekend retreat and exchange cultural experiences. Everyone is, of course, fascinated by the fact that I live in Paris. I, on the other hand, am intrigued by Stavanger's petrolium based economy which seems to employ most of the area's population.

I have stopped short from singing Norwegian songs around a mid-summer night dinner table under the open skies but maybe next year, along with the home-made cider, the neighbour's cherry juice/schnapps and the local Prosecco, I will teach my friends a heartfelt Swiss German joddel?!?

Welcome to the Nordic Fjords

A friendly game of volleyball

Friends popping by for a coffee

Washing blowing in the wind

A well earned glass of wine...

... and Norwegian strawberries to go with it!

Sunset at midnight

 No.1 fan

June 5, 2014

She is wearing PiNK!

Boy, do I have something to blog about today. I am no real monarchist but I did get excited to the point of getting goose bumps.

I saw THE Queen.

She was wearing PiNk!

It all happened in front of my doorstep.

Now, this doesn't happen every day!!! But let me start at the beginning...

While waiting to pick up Expat boy at school (he is momentarliy on crutches) I was listening to the build-up for the Queen's arrival in Paris to celebrate 70 years since D-Day on the local radio. They announced the roads in the center were about to be closed due to her visit. And here I was, sitting in my car, wondering how on earth I was going to make it back to our flat.

Sure enough, twenty minutes later - with son in toe - we were stopped at the beginning of our avenue just to be told we could not pass. Never the one to take no for an answer, and by now, used to French diplomacy, I flicked out my pink (!) French driver's licence stating my address. "Hmm, I didn't receive any instruction for this case" says the Gendarme. " Well, good! Let ME give you some!" was my response. Five minutes later we were at home.

By now, my curiosity had been peaked. I leaned out the window to get a glimps of the Arche de Triomphe. Impossible to see anything between the trees. Armed with my handbag and i-phone, I popped downstairs towards the second barricade of Gendarmes at the end of the avenue. This time none of my negotiation skills paid off and I stretched to get a better view of the arch in front of me. THAT's when I spotted her getting out of her Rolls Royce. Ohh, I'm getting goose bumps again...

I could hear the British anthem being played followed by the French one and I felt lucky to witness such a historical moment.

Queen Elizabeth II is living history. She is one of the very few at the ceremony who is actually old enough to remember the event in 1944! Now, that says it all. She also arrived by train rather than taking a private jet. That's impressive at 88 years old, if you ask me.

Oh, and most importantly, she is wearing an exquisite outfit with the matching hat:

She is pretty in PiNK!

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