April 28, 2017

Beware, for men will dazzle you but they will never enlighten you...

If you have lived in Paris for a while you know that Mme Pompadour is an important figure in French history. Asked by my husband over breakfast about why this Madame was famous, I answered promptly: "Why, she was the King's mistress of course!" After all, we are talking about France.

Not a great fan of the overwhelming Musée du Louvre, a guided tour by my favourite English-speaking tour guide convinced me to sign up on a visit anyway.

Winding our way through the thousands of tourists and the 38,000 objects the Louvre showcases, we headed straight for the 18th century collection of French paintings in the Denon wing which include works of Watteau, Fragonard and Chardin.

I was ready to admire an endless collection of portraits and landscapes knowing that our lovely tour guide Kelly could make them all come alive in an instant. What I was not prepared for was that we were only to study about 10 works of art - although the painting collection has more than 7500 works - and spend nearly three hours in absolute awe listening to Mme Pompadour's life, love and death.

Our Anglo-Greek guide has the gift of being an extraordinary story teller. Not only does she talk about lust, love, husbands, mistresses, jealousy, illness and death, she also enacts, even sings, rending her historical accounts fascinating and captivating.

Her account of real people and events told for entertainment would not be credible were it not for her profound knowledge of history, art, architecture, religion, mythology as well as political, social and economic demographics. Her narratives put France's cultural heritage into storylines that are fascinating to follow but also allow for some fun anecdotes to recall when guiding my visiting family and friends around Paris.

To enter the world of Watteau or Chardin, an imaginative effort is required, and our lovely guide managed to take us there within minutes of starting the tour. Her scenarios were designed to engage her audience by numerous strategies, such as intriguing narrative, humor, tearful drama, moral example, social outrage, sweet sentiment, and titillation.

Making my way out of the huge labyrinth that the Louvre resembles, I felt I had just watched a movie that I so much enjoyed I did not want it to end.

Maybe I should have left the last five pages of our guide's tale unread in order to keep on dreaming of Mme Pompadour's adventures, chief mistress of King Louis XV, the thirteenth lady in waiting to the queen, patron of the arts and a champion of French pride.

Checking out the surroundings before entering the almighty building.

During the eight-year regency that followed the death of Louis XIV in 1715, the center of French society shifted from the royal palace at Versailles to Paris. The refined social life that flourished in the more intimate and private town houses of Paris replaced the pomp and ceremony of Versailles and set the tone for the rest of the century. 

A sophisticated elite cultivated a life refined to a degree scarcely seen before or since, with intimate social and intellectual gatherings, conversation, letter writing, and a fascination with the movements of the heart...

... and not only the heart!

Portrait of the Marquise de Pompadour by Maurice-Quentin Delatour. 
One of her famous quotes is: "Champagne is the only wine that enhances a woman's beauty."

No need for a break, Kelly's storytelling is fascinating.

A fragment of the Louvre's 18th century art collection 

A quick peek out onto the impressive courtyard.

Tourists everywhere you look!

April 27, 2017

Paris is a woman's town

“Oh, London is a man's town, there's power in the air; 
And Paris is a woman's town, with flowers in her hair; 
And it's sweet to dream in Venice, and it's great to study Rome; 
But when it comes to living, there is no place like home.”
―Henry Van Dyke

Stumbling across this poem by Henry Van Dyke made me think: is Paris really a woman's town?

Paris is a beautiful city but it is a tough town. French women are renowned for their elegance but how far has daily routine taken over the glamour? Paris is the capital of luxury but also made headlines for violent graffiti covered suburbia which in turn has been made fashionable by labelling it Street Art. 

Bref, one thing you will never see, however, is a French lady with flowers in her hair BUT les trottoirs de Paris are covered in magnificent, inspiring and bountiful flower stalls overflowing with abundance of patterns and lavish displays of colour this time of the year!

April 23, 2017

How many emotions fit into one day?

The first thought that crossed my mind this morning was: "Has there been a sequel to the shooting of last night at the Champs Elysées?" Luckily the answer was no. RELIEF

I could not resist the beautiful sunshine and braved the low temperatures to have a stroll around the Trocadero. CURIOSITY

Walking towards the square I was wondering if I'd find tourist defying last night's violence and the media frenzy. Sure enough tourist buses were buzzing around, people were taking selfies with the Eiffel tower as a backdrop, a bike tour whizzed by, wedding couples were having their portrait taken, food stalls were flourishing and the street vendors lingered waiting for easy prey. THANKFULNESS

Life seemed nearly back to normal albeit the eerie yet respectful feeling when crossing a few policemen's path. ADMIRATION

Next, I took myself off to the kids' school where my husband was to give a presentation for Career Day. What better occasion to see my hubby in action. TEMPTATION

At one point all four of us were in the classroom which made me giggle and happy for it confirms our closeness as a family and support of each other. HAPPINESS

Today is also Expat boy's last day of school. Yep! He is about to graduate. This is great news for him and I am thrilled for his sake but it also makes me feel a bit sad and rather old. NOSTALGIA

To top off the day a close friend of mine has popped the news that they will be moving on to a new destination just when I thought she'd be by my side forever! DISAPPOINTMENT

But, all in all, it has been a good day. Dare I say it's just another regular day in the city of Lights! Paris le jour, Paris la nuit, sous soleil ou sous la pluie, Paris sera toujours… Paris! LOVE

April 21, 2017

The morning after...

I awoke this morning wondering if terrorism would become the new normal? One life lost is tragic! This cannot be considered the new normal. Last night's cowardly attack on a policeman was yet again a reminder that the world in which I grew up in is a complete different reality in which my kids are advancing.

The panic that follows a rattle of gunfire is contagious and it is amplified a million times by the media which tend to blow it out of all proportions in pursuit of high ratings. Given the upcoming French Presidential elections emotions are running high and the armed forces are extremely nervous. No need to aggravate an already fragile situation.

The worst part, however, is that you don't know where it will stop. Is it an isolated incident or will more reports of heinous attacks be broadcasted in the coming minutes? Every time this kind of episode - because it has unfortunately turned into episodes - happens you hold your breath and pray that there aren't more simultaneous acts in other parts of the city about to unfold. The uncertainty is what is so unsettling.

If you are lucky you are at home with your family close but more often than not you need to reach out quickly to make sure your loved ones are safe. The Champs Elysées is VERY close to home in our case which makes me think twice before letting my kids take off to see their friends in the neighbourhood after school today. But then again... today is another day and life goes on.

Defiance has set in and the determination of not letting this violence take over our lives. And in a promising sign, many of the tourists in Paris today weren't afraid to head to the Champs-Elysées the morning after the attack. Vive Paris!

A Japanese couple taking their wedding shots at the Trocadero.

The tourists are back in force accompanied by beautiful sunshine this morning.

Of course, it is eerie seeing all the policemen and women with their guns.

The street vendors are going about their business without interruption.

April 19, 2017

Italian flavours in St. Germain des Prés

Who said all the Italian restaurants have been replaced
by sushi take-aways in St. Germain de Prés?

April 14, 2017

What a fridge door can tell you...

Enjoying my breakfast and a quiet moment all to myself this morning my gaze came to rest upon our fridge. Every time I look at the door covered with magnets, I think of the architect who once told me how ugly a fridge looks when it is covered by these whimsical ornaments.

Well, theoretically I would agree with him, HOWEVER, come to think of it, it is difficult to find such a little space throughout a home which will tell you more about a household than a refrigerator door covered in trinkets.

So, let's take a look at mine:

I am clearly a pizza-eating, fondue-loving Chocaholic. The family's Italian and Swiss background cannot be denied. Love plays a major part in our family. It might be cliché but we believe in it!

My penchant for expensive taste is undeniable and although I am very adamant about playing by the rules sometimes you need to step beyond your boundaries and accept a challenge in order to explore and grow which is my concept of fun.

I don't take myself too seriously, a trait I have inherited from my Dad and appreciate a good sense of humour.

A Paris magnet managed to snuck its way onto the fridge in Madrid but purely because I like the colours and felt we needed at least one token of our current residence country. Greece is the frivolous addition... but also because we love to travel there in the summer.

Thanks to Expat Boy the entire family is football savy and Expat Girl is a Mini-Me therefore most of the above would be a fairly accurate description of her as well.

My husband's contribution comes in the form of an Italian car... how else could it be? I will let him be the judge if I can kiss better than I cook...

April 9, 2017

Today's the day, we'll say "I do"

It's a party!!! Not just any party!!!! A wedding party... a Spanish-Mexican fiesta. Our Nutricionista con buena onda of the Sex and the City girls has decided to take the big step. What a superb occasion to get ten of us back together to celebrate in Madrid?

Gathering in the hotel lobby waiting for the ceremony to start, we were all checking if we had our tissues ready and making sure our better halves had all connected so we could pow-wow, for some of us have not seen each other in years.

This is where I discovered that ALL my girlfriends had bought a second pair of shoes along. Seriously?!?

Walking down the aisle that the guests had formed the bride was beautiful, emotional and shaking with nerves reaching a very flushed and emotional Spaniard standing in wait for her. The bilingual ceremony (Spanish/Mexican) was short and sweet culminating with a Frida Khalo poem our friend had dedicated to her love. At this point the Sex and the City girls all started pulling out their handkerchiefs and smiling at each other. We were all so happy for her... simply over the moon to see she had found such happiness and complicity!

We all let the warm spring evening embrace us on the terrasse overlooking the pool while sipping our cocktails. The palm trees added to the exotic, festive feeling. The Spaniards connected with the Mexicans, the Dutch with the Venezuelan, the Italians with the British, the Portuguese with Lebanese and the Cuban with the Swiss.

The food and the music set the ambiance for a perfect Latino evening and of course the Tequilla shots served by the bride and groom helped along a great deal.

We danced, laughed and cheered into the wee hours of the night and I started to understand the need for flat shoes although none of the girls did part with their sexy heels in the end.

The bride was not just radiant and in love but truly beautiful with her white boat neck dress which showed off her lovely long legs and accentuated her slim waist with an intricate red&green flower motive in honour of her Mexican heritage. The 3/4 sleeves allowed for an incredibly elegant touch and the red peep-toe high heels gave her the ultimate suave and sensual style.

She was the queen of the evening and she certainly pulled it off... because she was the most stunning and exquisite lady of them all! Oh, and did I mention... the happiest one as well!

Spring is here, the sky is blue
Birds will sing as if they knew
Today's the day, we'll say "I do"
And we'll never be lonely any more
Because we're going to the chapel
And we're gonna to get married!

When the bride wasn't looking

When your Mexican friend gets married... it's a serious party!

Mexican bonbonniere to thank all the guests!

April 7, 2017

Lugano in pictures

View onto Lugano and Monte Bré from Sorengo

Tempted to take a dip. If I swam to the other side I'd be in Italy!

Stepping out of the train station and into a picture perfect decor

Muzzano has a population of 821 inhabitants 
and the entire village is designated as part of the Inventory of Swiss Heritage Sites

If walls could speak I am sure their stories would be breathtaking.
Muzzano is first mentioned in 1189.

Palmtrees are common in this part of the world

A lovely iron gate from the past

A hidden garden with friendly hosts

A touch of colour is always good

The statue of San Francesco d'Assisi looking down onto the lake of Lugano.
The church of Santa Maria Assunta in Sorengo dates back to 1298.

A pink blast of spring

April 5, 2017

Feeling at home

Once again we are back in Lugano and although it has been six years since we left - what was suppose to be our home for ever and ever - we remain attached to this magical place.

A town embedded by green hills with snowy peaks cascading into a crystal clear lake dotted with villages clinging close to the steep slopes. The stone buildings tightly aligned - dating back to the 16th and 17th centuries - embellished with frescoes and stucco decorations.

An area where - when the sun sets - the bird twitter is still more present than the traffic and the air quality is measured in terms of pollen not pollution.

A community that still greets you with a "Bun Dì" even though they don't know you. Cars stop for pedestrians with a smile and a hand gesture, the odd old boy cheers you on when you jog past and the postman leaves packages on your doorstep not worrying about them being stolen.

A town where you can still spot cows when you look out of the window and hear the church bells chime every hour.

It is a peaceful world where the stress of Paris dissolves in an instant. Where aggressiveness is replaced by courtesy and arrogance by discipline.

It is easy to slither into this comfortable lifestyle but ... then again ... I would miss the vibes of a bustling metropole.

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