December 23, 2015

December 22, 2015

A pop-up chocolate store insider tip

It is no secret that I adore chocolate. If YOU like chocolate, chances are you have heard of Patrick Roger, the French chocolatier most famous for his giant chocolate orangutans. An insider tip came to my ears that this month Monsieur Roger - who was named a Meilleur Ouvrier de France (MOF) in 2000 at the tender age of 32 - is featuring 50 of his sculptures in chocolate but also in a variety of materials such as bronze, cast aluminum, and other metals somewhere in the Marais.

However the disappointment was big when all we encountered in the pop-up store was a little workshop showing how marzipan elephants were formed. I must add the artist was standing on top of a 5cm thick pavement of chocolate while he was working on a barrel of solid chocolate! I am assuming those are the blocks M. Roger starts off with when he sculpt his famous chocolate creatures.

More than an artist, Patrick Roger is a creator who invites us to use our senses... to see, to feel, to touch and to taste with delight. This time around, unfortunately, it was more seeing than tasting.

We've found the pop-up store, hurray!

A little chocolate Christmas decoration to welcome us

Wow! All these lions are made of chocolate?!? False alarm, they're bronze.

But we've found some chocolate miniature Christmas trees for sale!

As well as plenty of boxes of chocolate... but this is not what we came for!

So where's the chocolate?

A very friendly patissier - NOT M. Roger - demonstrating how to add marzipan elephant ears.

Expat girl is unimpressed, she is sure she could manage these all by herself.
She's probably right!

But look! He's standing on solid chocolate! THAT is seriously cool!

However, it was a sleak-looking gallery...

... more geared towards metal sculptures than chocolate ones! ;)

December 21, 2015

Lunch at the Marais

Just because everybody goes to l'As du Falafel doesn't mean we need to go! One of the greatest perks of being part of an International community is that you learn about each others cultures and you share parts of it, either through joining in traditions, tasting local food or listening to traditional music.

One of my best food discoveries in Paris has been thanks to an Israeli friend of mine who took me on an Jewish culinary trip to the Marais.

From swampy to swanky, the Marais has a fascinating history. Like an aging pop star, the quartier has remade itself many times, and today retains several identities. It’s the city's epicenter of cool with hip boutiques, designer hotels, and art galleries galore; the hub of Paris's gay community; and, though fading, the nucleus of Jewish life.

Nothing beats Miznon's falafel with Boeuf Bourignon accompanied by a "burnt cauliflower" their speciality. Expat daughter and I were licking our fingers today and missing our friend who has moved back to her homeland in the meantime.

This is for you my friend:

Simple but oh so good!

From boulangerie to boutique

A hidden courtyard

Some very pretty Christmas decorations for a two-star hotel

A Marais classic

Trendy Marais

Vue down rue de Sévigné onto Paroisse Saint-Paul Saint-Louis

Things you can do with a Miniature balcony

Paris est toujours Paris

The art of "floquer"

The art of blackboard drawing!?!

Que c'est beau Paris!

December 19, 2015

Hello and Au Revoir my friend

It is yet another farewell that hurts, even though I knew it was coming. Only... I expected to spend a little more time together before she left.

She is the last one of the gang - apart from myself - arriving at the kids' school back in 2011. We were all new to the city but for most it was not the first expatriation. We formed an eclectic group based on the sole common factor that our kids were in the same grade and we were therefore thrown into contact with each other.

She was the friend you don't expect. The person you get to know better because destiny has decided to make your paths cross rather than leading you along parallel roads.

Instead of gradually evolving, our friendship just clicked one day and we both knew intuitively that we had made a friend for life. It was after having realised this not too long ago, that we made the effort to meet up more often.

She is an international business woman and a super mum juggling travel with school plays and junior football matches. She is the power house always full of energy. Everytime we manage to meet - which unfortunately is less than we'd liked to due to her travelschedule - her smile greets me long before she's close enough to hug me.

We have managed to extract moments of our busy family schedules over these past months, to celebrate our independency and value our friendship as we have gotten to know each other better over an Aperò or a Japanese meal.

I don't think she knows how much I will miss her when she leaves after Christmas.

There will be no more Swedish meatballs served at Internatioanl Day and someone else will be leading the Santa Lucia festival next December and there'll be no one to secretly share an entire bottle of Prosecco with during the End-of School-Year picnic!

I guess I will just have to travel to Frankfurt for Happy Hour!!!

December 17, 2015

24 hours in Zürich

Nothing beats going home for Christmas. Having been given the opportunity to spend 24 hours in my home town of Zürich I grabbed the occasion to walk down memory lane, admire the Christmas decorations and catch up with a few "old" friends. As the saying goes: "It takes a long time to grow an old friend."

The true macaron: Luxemburgerli

Oh dear. Not sure I like this budding fashion?!?

Now THIS reminds me of my childhood.

Every day at 4 pm Kurz Watches and Jewellery shop rings out a Carillon of traditional Swiss music, as hand-carved figures dance, wave and ring cow bells. The figures, sporting costumes from different regions in Switzerland, were made by a ​​wood carver from Brienz, Switzerland. At this time of year, the songs are themed for Christmas. 

Gotta love the Globus department store. They always come up with wacky ideas. This year it's Gina Lollobrigida Christmas tree decorations.

A touch of Paris?

Can't resist a glass of mulled wine

Jemoli, another Zurich institution

A great Christmas gift for homesick Swiss: Caran d'Ache

A look down Bahnhofstrasse at dusk

A glimpse up the Rennweg

Can you smell the "haissi Maroni"?

I actually recall indulging in this toy catalogue from 1975 and 
cutting our images to stick on my letter to Father Christmas!

Only the Swiss can create this atmosphere: heimelig!

Turicum by night

Some things never change!

The Café Schober's window display seems like a dream

Zimtstärnli, es wiähnachtelet!

I still use this little old witch on our homemade gingerbread house every year!

Feeling homesick for Zürich

December 15, 2015

A Parisian dining room window with a view

Looking out of my Hausmannien-style dining room window, my eyes hover above the busy avenue covered with dead leaves of many different autumn colours having tried to hang onto their branches as long as possible. This artery which links the Champs Élysées with Trocadero is trodden upon by thousands of eager tourist every hour of the day and night. Strangers that come and disappear.

The jingle of the rickshaws cycling by, the disco bus’ music on a Saturday night, the Friday evening ritual of Egyptian protesters’ claims, the PSG supporters' chants after an exciting football game, the ambulances’ sirens at night and the workers' unions’ slogans during lunch hour, they all reach our ears from below and every once in a while curiosity gets the better of us and we drop what we are doing to get a peak of the action going on outside our house. We especially appreciate the green garbage trucks that drive beneath our windows at six o’clock in the morning even though we do feel sorry for the garbagemen who need to rise at the crack of dawn on the freezing winter mornings.

Below our building to the left you'll find your typical French bistro with a red awning protecting the wicker chairs around tiny round tables which in any other European county would seat two persons; the Parisians manage to fit four to six tourists around them and charge a fortune. The waiters - dressed in their traditional black Parisian waiter’s apron - seem to be friendly, albeit after all this time living right above their workplace, we have yet to greet person to person.

To the right of our building huddles a homeless person, some days he's in his familiar spot others he is not, but we've adopted him as our « hobo » and the kids give him a few coins whenever they pass by. He does greet us. We get a big smile when we step out our front door and sprint across the pavement down into the green iron alloy Hector Guimard designed metro station hoping to make it to school on time. We miss him when he disappears for a while and imagine places where he might be hanging out.

Lately there has been a new addition to our little community of strangers. In stark contrast to the hobo and the garbage men, a luxurious hotel has opened it’s doors and we have spotted more bell boys, maids and concierges from our prime positioned window than actual paying hotel guests. It had never occurred to me, that one might be able to define different levels of strangers?

Of course, we are happy to welcome the newcomers in our hood, they do add a bit of colour to the block. We have yet to see if they will greet and smile or just cohabit with their « voisins ».

The icing on the cake, however, comes when at dusk the century old building lights up in pink hues and makes the perfect backdrop to my pink decorated Hausmannien-style dining room.

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