April 30, 2016

Saluti dal Ticino

Just in case you were wondering what had happened to me... I'm on vacation in Switzerland's Sonnenstube (sunny corner) and loving every minute. 

A little bird told me it was snowing in Paris this week?!?!

A blissful day in Paradise

Green hills and blue lakes everywhere you turn to

Not a cloud in the sky

A place to sit in contemplation

The Catholic touch

The perfect lunch spot

April 23, 2016

Paris' splendid Opera House

It was a date. A date with my Swedish friend who was back in town for the weekend. I had been waiting for the perfect moment to finally tour the Opera Garnier. The last time I had been inside was to enjoy a ballet performance in 1992!

We met for breakfast at the posh Café de la Paix so we could catch up before having to focus all our attention on the tour guide. Ahh, these are the instants I love about Paris, when you just need to indulge in a cup of coffee and a croissant at an iconic Parisian café only to hop across the road and glide up the magnificent staircase into a thoroughly opulent Opera House.

Palais Garnier is one of the most famous opera houses in the world, largely because of its role in the novel turned musical, Phantom of the Opera. The 1,979-seater was started in 1861 and completed 14 years later. Charles Garnier’s plans for the new theater was halted many times due to war, limited funding and the demise of the empire that commissioned it. But thanks to a bit of determination along with a fire that destroyed the old opera house, it finally opened in 1875. People from all over the world gather here to experience the grandiose opulence of the Second Empire.

The highlight was the gilded auditorium with red velvet seats which we only got to peak at since rehearsals were being held. 24 hours earlier, star choreographer Benjamin Millepied had announced his resignation from Paris Opera Ballet, little more than a year after he arrived with a promise to radically shake up the world’s oldest and largest dance companies.

Well, I guess the French got the better of him!?!

Nevertheless, we were in awe at all the grandeur and glamour this place oozes out. We admired a massive chandelier and Chagall’s gorgeous ceiling mural, imagining the Black Swan wandering around in the shadows of the settings and half expecting Natalie Portman to turn up and scare us away. But then again, it might also be the phantom of the Opera?

One of Paris' most glamorous landmarks

A rather scary entrance... 

Opulence and grandeur

Sumptuousness and lavishness

Delicacy and femininity

Force and power

Still being haunted by that phantom?

Richness and magnificence

Luxuriousness and lushness

Splendour and glory

Beauty and elegance

A view from the balcony looking onto the Grand Hotel and the Café de la Paix

A detail of the facade

April 20, 2016

A Parisian Instagram moment

One lonely tourist

Facades of the Marais

An old-fashioned perfumery

Dejeuner au bistro

It's lunchtime

Metro hoping


Parisian Lemon Meringue pies

Hot Chocolate... the real thing!

April 17, 2016

Let's go for a run...

Sunday morning and it's a beautiful spring day... well, maybe more like Spanish lunch time (2pm) and I finally manage to get myself together and take myself for a run around the lake in the Bois de Boulogne. It has been a long time since I've last been on this side of the hood ... and it feels sooooo good!

Avoiding the crowds ...

One day I will have to check out what's in that tower!

New PiNk running shoes... yeah!

Where's Heidi?

Spot the PiNk!

Need my prince to take me for a ride!

A peaceful sunny Sunday in Paris

Last sprint up the hill towards the Arc de Triomphe... only in Paris!

April 16, 2016

Remembering the little girl I was...

How can you create an exhibition of a 57 year old doll and give her a platform usually reserved for the greatest artists of our time?

Well, the answer is simple: her name is Barbie and she has accompanied millions of girls through their childhood years.

However, only Paris could pull this off with so much style contemplating the success of this iconic doll by contextualising her within a cultural and social history of the 20th and 21st century.

Located in the Palais du Louvre's western wing, the entrance of the Museum des Arts Decoratifs was grandiose and, oh, so Parisian. At the top of the grand staircase stood a bright pink door inviting my Flaneuses friends and I to enter the magical world of Barbie.

Two of us were clearly enchanted the minute we entered the exhibit since we lost ourselves in reverie right in the first hall standing in total awe surrounded by an object which had taken over a good part of our lives between the ages of six to twelve.

We watched two wonderful documentaries about the history of Mattel and learned that the company's name is derived from Harold "Matt" Matson and Elliot Handler, who founded the company in 1945. Matson soon sold his share to Handler due to poor health, and Handler's wife Ruth took over Matson's role.

Much to my surprise I learnt that the success of not only Barbie but also Hot Wheels (little toy cars which my little brother and later my son would spend hours and hours playing with) were thanks to this creative and innovative husband and wife duo and not just streamline products of the huge company Mattel is today.

We waded through Barbie models from 6 different decades, spotted familiar models on the big "Family rainbow tree" - all I could remember were Skipper and Ken - and admired the real life couturier dresses the Barbie dresses had been inspired by.

Who remembers the Spice Girl Barbies? Or the Marie Antoinette one? Ever seen the Andy Warhol or Audrey Hepburn version? The stewardess, the vet, the architect and of course the princesses were all on display.

The absolute highlight was a 10 meter wall covered in Barbie clothes. Thousands of outfits had been carefully and creatively pinned on a black panel in perfect colour coordination ranging from pink (obviously!) to dark blue.

I walked out of the exhibition elated and a bit overwhelmed with all the memories of my childhood that had come flooding back. I could still see myself at my best friends' home sewing miniature clothes for our dolls and playing with the biggest acquisition I had ever made until then: a Barbie swimming pool!

Four decades later Miss Pink is still my best friend eventhough we don't live in the same country, I just wish we could have shared this special moment. Her memory is so much better than mine!

Pavillon de Marsan's magnificent staircase

Barbie's most famous portrait

La Barbie Parisienne

The Dior Barbie

Can I get a copy of that ski suit?

My prince has come along with many pairs of shoes

My most cherished acquisition at age 10

Christian Leboutin's dedication to Barbie's 50th birthday

Three Christian Dior dresses with Barbie size replicas in the background

I'll have one of each of these outfits please!

1980 Aerobic Barbie... remember the multi-coloured leg warmers?

A collage of thousands of Barbie outfits

Close-up of the collage in PiNk, of course!

April 9, 2016

What it takes to make a home

​What makes a spot feel like home? Is it because it's the place you live in, the local food you appreciate, the cultural traditions you enjoy, the location's natural beauty or does it just boil down to good friendship?

We have lived in many places and some have stuck with us more than others, to the point where the ones that have conquered a part of our hearts we still call home whereas the others we hardly ever talk about anymore.

Paris is officially our home but we also call Lugano and Madrid our home. Years ago I would have argued that one might be schizophrenic to so convincingly feel part of not just two but three communities. Today I know that not just my husband and I have created a strong bond to these places but the kids feel totally integrated in all three as well.

Of course, the fact that we regularly return to Lugano and Madrid renders the feeling of home easier. But the question remains: why do we so enjoy returning to "our homes"?

Yes, we love the local food and we travel back to Paris with our luggage full of goodies every time to cure our home sickness. Yes, we have adopted traditions from each country which we add to our rather eclectic yearly calendar of family celebrations. Yes, we do speak the local language and follow the who's who of the moment on regional TV and yes, we enjoy the natural beauty each location has to offer... but in the end...

... in the end...

... it is the human factor that makes all the difference.

Our homes resemble Grand Central Station the minute we arrive. Neighbours popping by to greet us, girl friends coming round for brunch, family friends inviting us for dinner, kids enjoying sleepovers, teenagers hanging out in the den listening to music, aquaintances catching up with us, custodians and gardeners happy to see us, the postman and the lady at the bakery intrigued by our lifestyle but appreciative of our loyalty.

Expat girl is convinced that even the cows down the road recognize her when she returns to Lugano!

It is the feeling of belonging that turns a place into a home. The consciousness of being appreciated and cherishing the good things in life such as true friendship. The demonstration of affection and the loyalty and respect that comes with it ... from both sides of the relationship.

This might sound like a cliché but I believe it is what ties us to our homes ... since ... how lonely and boring would a home be without the life and soul of human beings!

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