February 28, 2017

A rainy day under a 200-year old Passage

What better to do on a rainy day than to stroll through Paris' famous passages. Towards the end of the 18th century, town planners created a labyrinth of hidden passages across Paris. These forerunners to our modern day malls simultaneously allowed you to take a shortcut, shelter from the rain, shop and dine.

Nowadays these passages are real architectural gems, old-world galleries perfect for hours of delicious browsing. Passage des Panoramas, takes the credit for being not only the oldest of the covered passages but the first public area in Paris to be lit by gas in 1817. I love it for it's several seriously vintage wine bars and romantic bistros which are completely overridden by tourists but allow for great photo shots.

February 26, 2017

17th Century French World of Interiors

In the quest to learn how to recognise the different periods of French furniture through the knowledge of the symbols and codes that distinguish each style I signed up for yet another tour. I would come to understand what techniques differentiate the master ebonist from the cabinet-makers and hear which were the various influences and where they came from. Before this tour I hadn't even considered at which point in time comfort and function became as important as style and image.

Well, I was taught that looking closely at the creations of famous French ebonists, one can read in them their account of the fashions, the social habits and the cultural legacy of the previous centuries. The pronounced taste of the Ancien Régime's nobility for luxury didn't prevent wide variations from over-elaborated magnificence to neo-classical austerity. The solemnity of Louis XIII creations was followed by Louis XIV elegant interiors, which soon gave way to the refreshing charms of the Rococo rooms, before the whimsical curves bowed to the supreme elegance of the neo-Pompeian styles: in other words, a feast of interior designing!

Who knew the superbly restored Musée des arts décoratives could dazzles the visitor with its extensive furniture collection set in original period rooms, many of them transposed here with all their original contents. It was just a question of finding the right guide, a lady of Greek origins with big long blond locks and an incredible knowledge of France's history, art, aristocracy, architecture, social and economic background as well as its past and present foes and allies.

Pretty funky staircase for the Pavillon of Marsans
(part of the Palais du Louvre's western wing)

My favourite arrangement of furniture

How to show off the foreign influences without loosing the "French touch"

How many drawers do you think this cupboard has?

Starting to see more curves than lines

He seemed like a jolly fella

A marble fire place mantel 

Interesting choice of disposition and wall colour

Intricate detail of woodwork 

Ebony and Ivory in geometrical harmony

February 25, 2017

When you realize you have a perfect shot

The first time I read about In the Spirit of Gstaad was in some swanky magazine like Paris Match. The launch of this photo book caught my attention since I have a very emotional connection to that area of Switzerland.

More than just a stop on the jet-set circuit, Gstaad’s great charm is its cozy yet glamorous style and atmosphere. The village owes much of its beauty to its natural surroundings as well as to the local architecture of enchanting wooden chalets and you can certainly say that hospitality is part of the culture.

Ever since I was a little girl the Pay d'Enhaut was my winter refuge. Apart from our two-year stint in Buenos Aires, not year went by without a trip to those soft Swiss hills where all you ever needed to know were the chalets' names and not their address.

So, when I came across the hardback in Cadonau, my favourite paper shop of all times, I couldn't resist and brought it with the excuse to offer it to my husband as a little gift!

Admittedly I do have a soft spot for Audrey Hepburn featured on the cover... after all she loved PiNk... but imagine my delight upon opening the book and finding the exact same photo that I had taken and posted on Instagram the day before.

I might need to consider an alternative career and start collecting material for my own book!?!

February 21, 2017

Swiss Export Shopping

It is common for expats to develop quirks about favourite foods and other items from their home country. If you have ever lived abroad you know the feeling.

Strange shopping habits can be spotted before leaving home and returning to an expat destination. Our family calls it Export shopping: it results in a family shopping spree around the Coop (sometimes Migros) stacking the trolley with our favourite food which has now become our comfort food.

These items cannot be found in the host country and may or may not have actually been part of the expats' lives in their home country but which given half a chance - and with some luck a car rather than a suitcase to fill - will undoubtedly be one of the highlights of being back home.

A bottle of Ramseier Apfelsaft, a Branchli or a Ragusa, an Ovo crunchy spread or Champions Birchermuesli will make us feel just a little bit better when we get hit with homesickness or nostalgia. A glass of Dole Blanche or a moité-moité cheese fondue will certainly hit the spot. And nobody makes bouillon cubes like the Swiss. NeoCitran, a widely-used cold remedy, will do the job in case of sickness, and the earplugs that come in a pink box let me sleep through thick and thin. And don't get me started on the chocolate... cooking chocolate, white hot chocolate, dark powdered chocolate, marzipan chocolate tablets, nutty chocolate bars and chocolate pralines!


Nor can we resist a Swiss bakery

Suntigszopf im Ussland

Familia Birchermüesli with Hirz Yoghurt... a champion's breakfast!

Le Chiacchiere di Carnevale... bring back sweet memories of Lugano

Ramseier or Rivella? 

A typical Swiss Export shopping bag

February 18, 2017

A week made in heaven

Every year we religiously drive back to Switzerland for a week's skiing. This year the Gods were smiling down on us and we arrived to catch the first rays of sun after several snowy days. In other words: perfect skiing conditions!

The saying "Feeling on top of the World" takes on a whole new meaning when you get to spend a glorious week of skiing with your childhood friends and everybody's family gets to join the fun!

Where to start?
Skiing, eating or suntanning?

A feeling of Swiss nostalgia

Weather forecast a week before we left

The view on our first day of skiing

My skis might be vintage but they still get me up and down the mountain just fine

A close encounter 

Chässchnitte uf de Alphütte

Teatime treat after skiing: Vermicelle at Charly's

Adelboden, a new discovery!

Anybody home?

The snow is melting rapidly after 6 days of sunshine

We could always try sledging down the mountain?

I am born to suntan!

I am intrigued!

The village of Rougemont

When teenagers are left without WIFI!!!

February 14, 2017

Love is...

... riding a chairlift side by side on a glorious winter day...

February 10, 2017

The Hague, a city of friendly smiles

After having missed an important celebration of two of my close friends last year, I decided that this year I would travel near and far in order not miss the opportunity to celebrate life and honour true friendship.

It was with this spirit that I left my family in Paris and took off to The Hague for 24 hours last weekend following a Dutch friend's invitation whom I met in Paris not too long ago. We connected in a way only expats do; with a look, a smile, a conversation, a coffee and after lunch we both just intrinsically knew we were going to be friends.

We don't see a lot of each other but when we do, we thoroughly enjoy each others company.  Therefore when the invitation came for her birthday party I accepted with pleasure. Who cares if it was in The Hague. I couldn't think of a better reason to travel to a place I have never visited before.

I dug up the number of another Dutch artist friend of mine who used to live in Madrid at the same time we did and sure enough she was thrilled to hear I was coming her way.

Three hours of train ride and I had entered the land of smiling faces and friendly English-speaking Dutch. No, they were not wearing clogs nor did the ladies have white bonnets on their heads but I did come across the most amazing inventions of 2-wheeled vehicles. The bakfiets is very common for transporting children, dogs, and frequent larger loads.  Another popular style includes a carrying rack mounted to the front of the frame.

The evening was spent meeting the Birthday girls' friends who were all chatty, charming and curious. They were eager to hear my story (for I had come all the way from Paris, really) and I was interested in hearing theirs. I was not disappointed, the conversations were uplifting, enriching and fun.

The next day my artist friend gave me the tour of The Hague and let me in onto some of it's secrets. We got a glimpse of Vermeer's Girl with a Pearl Earring, admired Mondrian's floating cubical pontoons on the Hofvijver, the small lake in front of the centuries-old Dutch parliament, did some shopping and enjoyed each other company over a glass of bubbly!

24 hours is all it took to pull me out of my routine. It was an invigorating, inspiring and stimulating weekend. As the Dutch put it: Gezelligheid kent geen tijd. The English equivalent would be "Time spent together is time well spent".

Orange doors. It must be Holland!

The Hague is the seat of the Dutch government and a home to the royal family.

Every type of bike under the sun

Lovely architecture and a welcome change form the Haussmannien style

The poshest hotel in town: Hotel des Indes

The Lange Voorhout Palace was once Queen Emma's winter residence.
Now it's home to the work of Dutch graphic artist MC Escher.

View from Mauritshuis, the art museum, onto Mondrian's cubical pontoons

The real thing!

Entrance to a law firm

Strolling through The Hagues alley's on a Sunday afternoon

Made me smile!

A well deserved aperò

Even the cats are gsellig

Interior deco of the local train... pretty funky?!
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