October 30, 2014

A PiNk Afternoon Tea

I did it... I finally did it! I booked myself a table for a "PiNk Afternoon Tea" at the Peninsula Hotel of Paris. Yes, the one that is all lit up in PiNk at night during the month of October to show its support for Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

I have been listening to them demolish the old structure, putting up with the noise and watching them build the new venue, while cleaning all the dust of my windows for the past three years and today the time has come when I decided to walk across the road to indulge in PiNk teatime at the "Peninsula En Rose".

I had waited for a special occasion since I had missed the grand opening on August 1st. Who plans a grand inauguration in August when nobody's in town apart from tourists, I wonder? I guess that was a bit of bad planning on their behalf... or maybe it was done on purpose... I'll never know.

The special occasion came today in the form a dear friend who visited from Sweden. A girly gossip on an unusually warm sunny October day - it was 20°C - which allowed us to enjoy the terrasse decorated with pink flowers.

Need I say that we were so focused on each others news, we got half way though the exquisitely presented tea treats before we even acknowledged them. I think it was the pink icing-coated madeleine with the pink raspberry filing that made us umm and ahhh.

The tea was good when it finally arrived after 20 minutes, and the waiter even proposed to "rechauffer" since we had to wait 40 minutes for the tea sandwiches and petit four to appear. However, the slow but extremely kind service was not to deter us from catching up with each others lives. I cannot think of a better time for the service to be embarrasingly slow than when you want to spend time with a friend you have not seen in a long time.

I am looking forward to next October already...

October 29, 2014

Feliz Cumple mi Amor

When you go into labour in a foreign country and your baby decides to come 10 days early, you rush to the hospital slightly panicked. Naturally, you expect to be received with open arms by the hospital staff... especially since this is your first time and you have no clue what you are getting yourself into!!!

Well, in Buenos Aires, on a rainy, full-moon night, I was turned down not by one, not two but THREE clinics! They told me they were full and had no beds left. After all - the nurse at the first hospital remarked - I was booked for the week after. Say what? Tell that to my baby who seems to differ in opinion of timing.

Had this been my home country Switzerland, I would have been seriously worried, but Argentineans are descendants of Neapolitans and Gallegos, in other words, they know how to improvise. It was with this faith that I plonked myself on a chair in the third clinic and announced I was not going anywhere else and that the baby was on its way! Deal with it!

This is how Expat boy came into our world. 15 years ago today! I might have shared my Midwife with three other girls (the poor lady kept on running from one patient to the next to give us an extra push), I spent most of the night on a hospital bed in the corridor due to lack of space but I was the happiest person in the world. My little porteño was healthy and gorgeous. 

They say he looks just like his Mummy. Happy Birthday my love!

October 26, 2014

A little piece of paradise

One of my favourite places in the world is the Lido of Lugano. It is like a blast from the past. I am catapulted back to my childhood in Zürich walking through the entrance of the Badi (bathhouse) only it is now 2014 and we are in the Ticino. Lugano is a very chilled city, and the Lido of Lugano just epitomises this.

It's little piece of paradise. In the autumn when the weather changes and the beach closes down, the doors are opened for Sundays brunches. The tempting buffet, the friendly service, the cosy pavilion and the mystic view onto the Lake Ceresio are a real treat. The experience is amazing when it is an overcast day and on sunny days the brunch at the Lido is simply unbeatable. It is an absolute must to keep your spirits up during the winter months.

From Lasagne to Luganighetta and from Scampi to Salmon. A cheese platter that makes your palate water not to mention the different types of mousse and cakes!

Surrounded by palm trees, a sandy beach and the lake melting into hills of Ticino on the horizon, your senses and you taste buds are spoilt to the max.

It is the marvel I miss most on a chilly grey Parisian Sunday morning.

October 25, 2014

Milano catapulted into the 21st century

When we moved to Milano in 2000, the capital of fashion turned out to be much more provincial than I expected. Don't get me wrong, I love Italians, I married one but the city just did not quite qualify as International city in my eyes. As a teenager, I used to own a t-shirts stating: I love Fashion: Paris - London - Milan but of the three the latter definitely did not live up to the other two in terms of Multicultural melting pot!

Admittedly the Italians had, have and always will have a head-start in fashion compared with the rest of the globe but as for metropolitan lifestyle Milano was still in the baby stage. There was no Armani Café or Nobu. The Ristoranti Bulgari and Dolce&Gabbana Gold were not invented yet and I struggled to find a sushi place. The Department store Rinascente was a scarce collection of products nobody needed and Coin was about to revamp its image. Peck was THE gourmet reference at the time but didn't look anything like it does today.

This has all changed. After many years I returned to Milan last weekend and I am flabbergasted at the changes and progress the city is making. The city is gearing up to host the Universal Expo in 2015 and guess what the theme will be? Feeding the Planet, Energy for Life! Visitors will experience a unique journey that looks at the complex theme of nutrition. They will have the possibility to take a trip around the world, sampling the food and traditions of people from all over the globe.

Well, I have booked my tickets online already. When will you?

Milano of the 21 century

Piazza Gae Aulenti

Unicredit Tower

10 Corso Como - the dome of Fashion - is still going strong

October 22, 2014

Eatlay à l'Américaine

It has been 11 years since we left Milano. I have been back a couple of times to guide friends around the Milano Cathedral or down the famous shopping road Via Montenapoleone but never ventured around the city until this past Sunday.

Popping cross the border from Lugano - where we are on holiday - to Milano to drop off Expat boy for a football match, I decided to meet up with some girlfriends rather than sit through the match.

Best decision ever.

Meeting point: Eatlay. I have been hearing from my friends across the globe about this a high-end Italian food market/mall chain comprising a variety of restaurants, food and beverage stations, bakery, and retail items. Driving into the city trying hard to remember which road to take I recognised the site where once the old Teatro Smeraldo stood. Honestly, I actually preferred the theatre.

However, as a tribute to this historic Milanese location, Eataly hosts a huge stage and offers a totally free season of music, which includes all the genres, from pop to rock to opera, as well as hosting recitals, readings, cabaret, theatre, ballet, meetings and art shows and naturally gastronomic ones.

My description would be: much todo about nothing. Eataly might make sense in New York, Dubai, Istanbul or Tokyo but in Milano? Admittedly, it is a treat and fun to browse around the 5000 m2 devoted to food and the best, locally sourced products spread out over 4 floors but most delicacies can be found around the corner... if you know where to find them! Or just walk down the road to the open market San Marco!

October 15, 2014

Where is Paris' Pletzl?

Charging into my fourth year in Paris, I decided I need to add something new. I joined WICE, an Anglophone association providing cultural, educational & social activities to the International community in Paris. Sounds good to me!

I started with a guided tour through the Jewish quarter of Paris. Turns out the guide was from Paris Walks and I have already spent the last three years touring Paris with them. I guess this just confirms my conviction that they ARE the best in town.

If you live in Paris, you know the historic rue des Rosiers is the heart of the Jewish quarter in the Marais. Did you know it was called the “Pletzl” (Yiddish word for square) and that a small community had already been living in the Pletzl since the middle ages. Also, Rue Ferdinand Duval was called rue des Juifs from the 13th century until 1900 – a reminder that Jews lived in the neighbourhood centuries ago.

We know that L'As du Fallafel make the best Fallafel in town but did you know that Sacha Finkelsztajn, the traitor on 27, rue des Rosier was the divorcé of Goldenberg (the old restaurant owner on 7, rue des Rosiers) or was it Korcarz the boulanger on 29, rue des Rosiers?

The Boulangerie Murciano always features the menorah - the candelabra with seven branches - in its window along with the most scrumptious croissants, pains au chocolat and Jewish delicacies that I have yet still to taste.

We discovered the Mémorial de la Shoah, a memorial for all the victims who died in the Nazi death camps. It hosts a permanent exhibition, a documentation center, the Memorial of the Unknown Jewish Martyr, a crypt housing the ashes of camp victims and a wall engraved with family names of 76,000 French Jews deported. Throughout the area plaques on the walls recall that the neighbourhood has suffered greatly under occupation.

Moving along we admired the Art Nouveau architecture of the Synagogue de la rue Pavée built in 1914 and designed by Hector Guimard, famous for his green Paris metro stations decorations.

We were bold enough to enter the Oratoire Fleischman which left me speechless. I have never ventured into a Jewish place of prayer or worship. I was intrigued by the plaques hanging from the chandeliers and the white veil at one end of the room, apparently the designated area for the women clearly separated from the men. Being five days after Yom Kippur, we came across a Sukkot, representing a hut in which the Israelites dwelt during their forty years of wandering in the desert after escaping from slavery in Egypt and in which Jews are supposed to dwell during this week-long celebration.

In the last five years, the many Jewish bakeries, delicatessens, Judaica shops, kosher butchers that once lined these medieval streets have gone, replaced by spiffy new high-end shops, let’s just hope that the Jewish heart and soul of the pletzl won’t be entirely squeezed out.

October 10, 2014

A view from above

"Paris est toujours Paris" as they say.... AND they are right! This city gives you vibes in a way that no other city can, at least not in a French way!

Here are some impressions from above the city of love:

October 9, 2014

All power to the Nanas

I know I am back in Paris again when, after having dropped off Expat daughter at her acting class, I am spoilt for choice of which museum to visit on a Thursday evening before I need to pick her up again 90 minutes later.

A stroll down Avenue Montaigne - a bit of window shopping never does any harm - and I am standing at the side entrance of the magnificent Grand Palais, the largest existing art-nouveau ironwork and glass structure in the world currently featuring a colourful sculpture placed in the middle of its 19th century garden fountain.

Niki de Saint Phalle is just up my street with all her colourful and opulent pieces of art. I realise how little I actually do know about this eccentric lady apart that in her young years she was an accomplished model and later married the Swiss artist Jean Tinguely.

Her artistic expression of the proverbial everywoman were named 'Nanas'. The first of these freely posed forms—made of papier-mâché, yarn, and cloth—were exhibited in Paris in September 1965. "For me, my sculptures, represent the amplified world of women, women's delusions of grandeur, women in today's world, women in power." Niki de Saint Phalle once stated.

My conclusion: 90 minutes were not enough to appreciate this rich and very varied body of work.

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