June 29, 2017

It's a sad day but let's celebrate!

Today was a sad day. The last day of school should be a happy one but this time of year comes with mixed feelings for our family. We've been through the motions so many times, saying goodbye to Expat friends who are leaving for new destinations time and time again.

The first round of Au Revoirs after only two years in Paris was tough. Many of the friends our family had made upon our arrival were heading on and seeing them leave hurt like hell.

Over the following years I realised that maybe WE were the lucky ones because so many of the leavers would have rather stayed in Paris. So for some years, I convinced myself that I was the fortunate one. My kids never quite bought this idea, needless to say!

I do admit I have toughened up a little. Friendships made later on are not quite as intense as they seemed to be when we first started our Parisian adventure. However, despite my resolution of being brave every year one or two people's farewell words and gestures have me tear up immediately.

It breaks my heart when I see the children hugging their little buddies in the school yard with tears in their eyes and their mums looking on helplessly also in floods of tears. It hurts just watching them.

On the other hand, these emotions are a strong testimony of how close one becomes in a short amount of time, how bonded one feels and how many memories one has created together.

Imagine having to leave a place you had called home for a few years without a tear in your eye or a chip in your heart?

With this in mind, it is with a glass of champagne that we celebrated our friendship today during the traditional end-of-school-year picnic, thankful to have met each other, hoping that one day our paths might cross again.

Bon Voyage et à bientôt mes amis!

June 25, 2017

A totally cool teenage Birthday tour

It is a true feat nowadays to surprise your teenage kids and organise a birthday celebration that they will truly revel in. Never the one to pass up a challenge, I set out to scout Paris' off-the-beaten track activities but did not find quite the right fit ... until one day... jogging past Passy Metro station I spotted a bunch of teenagers all kitted with bright yellow traffic vests busying themselves over some kind of skateboard. Taking a closer look, I recognised those awful hover boards that kids (and some adults) have been using as transport cutting off your path along the Parisian pathments over the past year or so.

I am addicted to technology therefore it did not even take the time for me to reach home that day, I had decided this would be just the ticket for Expat Girl's birthday activity. The clever business entrepreneur - whom I was to meet later on - had marked the traffic vests with name, telephone number and website. A few minutes later I was booked for a party of 5!

Expecting a rather emotionless but fun ride around the block for the kids, I could not have been more mistaken. The positive vibes were flowing the moment we met the monitor; smiling, on time and fully equipped with protection and safety material as well as the infamous self-balancing powered personal transporters consisting of two small-wheeled platforms on which the riders stand.

Everyone got to work excitedly making sure helmet, arm and kneepads and skate gloves with wrist support fitted snugly. Oh, and of course, the fluo yellow traffic vests!

Thirty minutes later after a clear and complete introduction session by the extremely kind and patient monitor the kids were ready to venture out onto the bike path over the Bir-Hakeim bridge and head towards the Tour Eiffel along the famous banks of the Seine. Wohoooo!

They received tips how to face and overcome urban obstacles, go up or down curbs, venture over a manhole cover, slalom between passersby… only one hour later the children were dancing to Justin Timberlakes' Can't stop the feeling on their hover boards!

The experience would not have been so much fun and playful had it not been for the guide, a young French entrepreneur who started his business of alternative tours two years ago. Thanks to his exceptional guidance, laid-back approach and endless patience the kids had an exciting and unforgettable afternoon while becoming little Hoverboard pros in just 90 minutes.

The smile on my daughter's face said it all, this unusual way of touring Paris had been a hit. Mille mercis Ibrahima pour une aventure inoubliable et une balade vraiment réussi.

June 21, 2017

Some like it hot!

France has been hit by a heatwave... the first true one since we've moved to Paris. The kind when you get up in the morning and don't need to check the weather to decide what to wear... a summer dress and sandals will do fine! The kind of heatwave that has the sun greeting you every morning when you open the shutters. The kind that makes Parisians actually start wearing colours rather than black. The kind that makes locals talk to each other feeling a sort of complicity in their fight against the sweltering heat.

More than one lady has asked me over the past days where I purchased my pink fan... in Madrid would be my modest answer... but I am sure the street vendors will hook on to that new business opportunity before long.

Today the capital is sizzling reaching a whopping 37°C. It is hotter in Paris than it is in Madrid, Lugano or Napoli. Now that's a first! I am enjoying every minute of it, not often does so much sunshine come our way in this city. Ok, I admit 90 minutes of hot yoga might have been a wee bit exaggerated this morning but I felt like taking on the world after stretching and suffering all in the pursuit of keeping my body in shape!

A pool of course would be a total luxury and I must say I have been tempted to check out the newly renovated Piscine Molitor - supposedly the birthplace of the bikini - but image the queue to get in?!? No, I am not that desperate, instead I have treated myself to some scrumptious ice creams from the best places in town this week and continue to bath in the hot weather feeling thankful for what I call a REAL summer! Happy First Day of Summer!

Even the merchants found their sense of humour

"French pedicured twinkle toes" as a friend so nicely put it


The perfect solution to a heatwave: Happy Hour with friends on a peniche

I don't go anywhere without my pink fan

More Happy Hours on a trendy peniche along the river

Just look at all those tourists melting away in the sun

 Queuing for a highly demanded commodity these days: Italian ice cream!

June 18, 2017

Elopement in Paris

Paris is, as we all know, the city of love. It is very lucky to have this reputation in my view because the locals are certainly as far referred from romance as you can possibly imagine. 

For the Parisians the motto is called metro, boulot, dodo, a wonderfully succinct way of saying that you live to work. Métro refers to a subway commute, boulot is an informal word for work, and dodo is baby talk for sleeping.

In any case, lovebirds from all over the globe are seriously spoilt for choice having decided to marry in the epitome of romance and whether its overlooking the Seine or standing beneath the shadows of the Eiffel Tower, saying “oui” at sunset in Paris will always put a smile on my face while I jog past them day after day witnessing their happiness.

June 14, 2017

Giving my boy roots and wings...

In Switzerland High School graduation ceremonies are not really part of the culture. I always read about these celebrations and have seen them in movie scenes but it never really hit home. It was, therefore, with a neutral feeling that I was watching Expat boy preparing his gown and cap and heading off to rehearsals yesterday morning.

Arriving at the Maison de la Radio later that day under a torrential rainfall I was ready to sit through a two hour ceremony in order to reach the fun part: the cocktail dinatoire and the socializing with all the other parents.

Little did I know what an uplifting and unforgettable moment I was about to experience. I was ready for the emotional part with two packets of tissues but totally taken by surprise how much the inspirational speeches, glorious music and improvised testimonies of community spirit touched me. Despite being well aware that it is this unique characteristic that the kids school is known for, I thought it was all about going through the motions. Well, I was wrong!

The music accompanying the students' entry onto the stage was glorious and underlined the emotional moment. Expat boy claims the full meaning of graduating hit him the minute he walked on stage.

The embracing space of the venue, the contrasting colours of stage and gowns, the students happy faces, the teachers relief intrinsically palpable, the sharing of personal experiences, the outburst of foresighted guidance - and yes, love - while remembering those who aren't with us any longer was truly moving.

The ceremony was well organized and flowed smoothly with the appropriate amount of serenity and humour to lighten things up when the moment was right.

The two hours flew by and I felt proud for each and every one of the kids standing up and collecting their diploma. Some stumbling over their caps others over their heels but all with an aura of happiness and satisfaction at having reached - with much hard and tireless work - the moment which seemed nearly impossible just a few months ago.

Last night my boy has graduated and today he is off on his way. He has his life ahead of him and as the saying goes: There are only two lasting bequests we can hope to give our children. One of these is roots, the other wings. Roots to know where home is and wings to fly away and exercise what they have been taught!

I am sooo proud of him!

June 10, 2017

Ever heard of the Isle of Lewis?

When family calls and you need to escape to the Outer Hebrides for a few days...

View from Granny's garden

A cold, invigorating shower to start the day

A wholesome Scottish breakfast to keep going

Whizzing around the island... Italian style

Cruising around Stornoway and exploring the castle grounds

Unfortunately many businesses have closed down these past years 

A quick dinner on the go... pizza and cava!

Curing my sweet tooth and childhood memories

Time to fly back to Paris

Stopover in Edinburgh airport... contemplating Scottish weather!

June 4, 2017

A step into St. Germain-des-Prés' past

The area around Saint Germain des Prés (and especially Saint Sulpice) is one of Paris' poshest parts. With neighbors that include Catherine Deneuve and Scarlett Johansson, it is the regular haunt of celebrities, writers, and intellectuals, making it the cultural capital of the city.

The area is named for the nearly 400-year-old church and its soaring bell towers, declaring both the geographical and social center of the arrondissement.

The village that swiftly grew around the abbey of St.Germain was fascinating. The site of one of the most famous medieval international fairs, then a permanent market. Its narrow, twisting streets were packed with inns, taverns, brothels, gambling rooms and shops for all purses and tastes.

But this rough and booming neighborhood was also right next door to some of Europe’s most famous centres of erudition the famous abbey itself, as well as the Couvent de Carmes and only a stone's throw from the Latin Quarter, so it was soon colonized by the workshops of talented artists, both French and foreign.

With the village fast becoming yet another neighborhood of the growing city of Paris, philosophers, journalists, politicians, lawyers (Marat, Danton and Demoulins all lived here!) now rubbed shoulders with the Enlightenment aristocrats of the wealthier faubourg with which it shared its name.

This tempestuous market district - when not negotiating, debating, quarreling or literally cutting each other's throats needed a place of worship, one that was spacious and grand enough to accommodate their aspirations as well as their faith. Those aspirations gave us St. Sulpice, one of the most splendid churches of the 18th century.

St. Germain-des-Prés metro station in the heart of the Left Bank named after the Place Saint-Germain and the Abbey of Saint-Germain-des-Prés, dedicated on December 232rd, 558 by the son of Clovis Childebert I, at the request of St. Germain, Bishop of Paris.

Café de Flore is one of the oldest coffeehouses in Paris celebrated for its famous clientele.

A Parisien on his way to work

Looking down Rue Bonaparte

Rue Férou (looking onto St.Sulpice church) where Ernest Hemingway lived with his newly married wife Pauline in 1927.

The 1871 poem Le Bateau Ivre (the drunken boat) by Arthur Rimbaud adorns the 300-metre long wall. Financed by the Dutch Embassy in Paris, it was painted by the Dutch artist Jan Willem Bruins and unveiled in June 2012.

The street is also famous for Man Ray‘s studio where the photographer worked from 1952 till his death in 1976

Église Saint-Sulpice is the second-largest church in all of Paris (just behind the famous Notre Dame)

The two most popular reasons to visit St. Sulpice are the church’s incredible pipe organ and seeing one of the settings for “The Da Vinci Code.”

A glimpse of Saint Sulpice Church, overshadowing the street sign of Pour l'Unité, a Catholic association founded in 1935.

Gotta love those street signs

Touch of British

Reminders of Baron Haussmann's massive urban renewal program under Emperor Napoleon III and a more modern street sign. 

7 Euros for a long drink is a real good deal for Paris' standards!

These bars served some kind of purpose in the 18th century 
but I cannot remember how the story went exactly!?!

Scrumptious Parisian patisserie

Romantic Paris

Geometrical composition

Old-world charm

Très, très Parisien

Bookworms welcome

La tarte Tropezienne... an invention adopted from the Côte d'Azur

Street Art contemporary style

Street Art 18th century style
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