March 23, 2017

Weekend escapade to Geneva

Known both as the "smallest of big cities", or the "city of peace", Geneva, lies at the southern tip of expansive Lac Léman. Surrounded by the Alps and Jura mountains, the city has views of dramatic Mont Blanc. Headquarters of Europe’s United Nations and the Red Cross, it’s a global hub for diplomacy and banking.

To me it was home for nearly a decade. It is where I started my career, where I realised for the first time that there were many other Swiss TCK just like me, it is where I met the love of my life and where we got married!

It is nice to return once in a while to see some things never change.


Good ol' Jet d'Eau with the Taxi boat crossing the lake


Bains de Paquis were many a weekend's suntanning session was spent.
I won't mention the quantities of Dole Blanche consumed!


The expansive Lake of Geneva



Spot the Swiss touch. A clock is never far away. 



My favourite teatime treats



A romantic lakeside dinner


 Even some funky pink night scene can be found nowadays! 

March 20, 2017

Swiss hospitality at its best

This weekend brought us back to Switzerland... yet again... for Expat boy needs to make his first grown-up life-changing decision. Where to go after the International Baccalaureate?

To be perfectly honest he is his father's son, total strategic focus albeit sometimes absent-mined when not interested. His two passions: football and hospitality.

For years he has known that his goal was to study Hotel Management in Switzerland, I figured it might be a good idea if he actually visited the campus and surveyed the groundbreaking training in action.

Arriving in Lausanne on a spectacular sunny day with blue skies and gorgeous views across the Lake Leman, we were blown away by the atmosphere, professionalism, efficiency, cleanliness, organization, beauty and of course hospitality of Swiss Higher Education.

The visits to two different institutes provided an opportunity to personally discover the professionalism and excellence the Swiss hospitality training is world-renowned for. Admissions officers, teaching staff and student ambassadors did an outstanding job in demonstrating what Swiss education stands for and how it successfully prepares students for a wide variety of hospitality management careers across the globe.

So much so, that my husband has now decided he wants to go back to study!


March 14, 2017

Expat with Kids in Paris' Social Media

Stuck at home with a thigh muscle strain - needless to say the weather is gorgeous and a run would seem like a great idea - I have reverted to streamlining all my social media feeds... et voilà le résultat! 

Enjoy Parisian moments on Instagram 











March 11, 2017

May I have a glass of Champagne so I can take a selfie?

After having read an article in the New York Times that someone had been eavesdropping on Parisian shoppers and had actually published a book on fashion chatter... how could I resist? I rushed down to the most Parisian of all department stores to take a look for myself.

Loïc Prigent, journalist and fashion documentary filmmaker, started tweeting the weird and wonderful conversations he'd overheard hanging out at Le Bon Marché for a couple of hours a week during months, culminating obviously at Christmas season.

Now, I do wonder how he EVER came about this idea but it did make me giggle. Le Bon Marché is the epitome of Parisian lifestyle and a must on a Saturday afternoon if you wish to study the Parisiens et especially les Parisiennes.

According to Loïc the best place to eavesdrop at Le Bon Marché is the bookstore. Did you know there are people who come there every day to read? They dog-ear the pages and then are put out when the book they’re reading has been sold.

The best of what he overheard during his visits to the store have been emblazoned on a range of items some more peculiar than others: tote bags, erasers, baseball caps, necessaires, postcards, snow globes, aprons, mugs, pens, etc.

One phrase he picked up that I can just see crossing a fashionista's lips is: "J’adore la mode mais c’est tout ce que je déteste." ("I love fashion, but it’s everything I despise") but a truly unique one would be "I want something sublime. Not neo-sublime, not post-sublime, just sublime. I’m not fussy."

Gotta love those Parisiennes!


#overheardatthebonmarché


The most classic comment would be:
"I’m Left Bank! Only!"


"No, I can't try it, I'm on the phone bidding."


"I'm searching for something more geisha but less candy."
Gotta love that one!


My favourite:
"I’m looking for a mechanic’s jumpsuit, but for cocktail hour." 
It's sooo Parisian!


"May I have a glass of Champagne so I can take a selfie?"
Simply brilliant!


A woman telling her husband:
"Calm down, chéri. It’s just a suit. You’re not buying a building."


"Ah mais non! I’ve always been a size 38!"


"I'll take it anyway, I'll go on a diet to fit into it." 


"Are you open?"


"Which colour red do you have?"


"Does it shrink with champagne, eh, sorry, water?"


"Don't be sad, be sexy and mysterious."


"I’m allergic to beige, except if it’s a hysterical beige."


"May I pay you in cash? It would lighten my handbag."

March 5, 2017

How long do you intend to be an Expat?

How long do you intend to be an Expat was the question put out to the community by my favourite blogger 4 kids, 20 suitcases and a beagle. My gut answer would be: it's a mindset as much as it is a formal posting abroad.

Technically I have been an Expat all my life; my family left my native country when I was two. I grew up as a Third World Kid, only at the time I didn't know I belonged to either of these two groups. As a matter of fact I didn't fit in anywhere. All through childhood my two best friends were "misfits" just like me. I realise today "being different" is what we had in common and created a bond that still keeps us close after decades.

My parents didn't see themselves as Expats once they decided to settle in Switzerland, so we simply became foreigners calling Zürich our home surrounded by an enormous Anglo-saxon community.

It was only after I married and moved to Argentina that I started defining myself as an Expat... and this opened up a whole new universe. A world where you dare to step out of what is normal, simply because you don't always realize what is considered normal in your host country. Family and friends are far away which means you need to rely on yourself but this also gives you the freedom to explore and re-invent yourself time and time again depending of your destination.

Now THIS is where I found my fit! Thriving with every move and jumping head first into every new adventure, trailblazing making sure my family could keep up.

Being an Expat to me equals venturing out towards new boundaries, opening yourself up without giving yourself up, embracing changes and rising to challenges. It means pushing yourself that extra bit and making the effort to learn the language, meet the natives and explore the local culture.

You change with every expatriation just like your kids mature after every trip you take them on. Places impact you, people leave a mark, cultures influence your character and age shapes your attitude.

After 10 expatriations - in order to maintain an inquisitive spirit and always walk one step beyond my comfort zone - I have taken an active decision to remain an Expat for life even if it looks as though we are settling down in Paris.

After all an Expat is "a person who lives outside their native country" and although this might be the official definition, for me it's the philosophy that I am hooked on, mustering up the courage and determination to plunge into the unknown, knowing that sometimes it may be a bumpy ride but that the rewards will outweigh the hardship!

I have never been known to be able to resist a positive challenge!

March 4, 2017

What do you know about French pâtisserie?

Curious to see inside the new building of world renowned Cordon Bleu culinary school I signed up for a course of cultural history of pastry which in French naturally sounds much more impressive: "L'histoire de la pâtisserie à travers l'édition culinaire."

I have participated in many culinary classes in the past but this was to be a lecture rather than a hands-on experience. We were taken on a journey of the evolution of French pastry from the earliest preparations, through 20th century decadence, to modern technology's influence on today's chefs.

Guided by the literature on French pastry we learnt that the distinction between cooks and pastry cooks was recognised in the Middle Ages. It all started off with the pain d’épice which was traced back to ancient times (as far as the Egyptians) and was brought to Europe from China by the Crusades. As they brought back the recipe and the spices, this distant ancestor of the ginger bread was spread over Europe during the Middle Ages.

In 1358 we find the first mention of the gateaux de Savoie, the posh French description for sponge cake! Apparently Nostradamus was the first person to write a recipe containing marzipan in 1555.

The first ice creams were served at the wedding of Catherine de Médicis and the future Henri II, along with pâte à choux, light pastry dough invented by Popelini. Who knew it was thanks to Catherine de Médicis, who not only brought with her Italy's white gold of the time but also the know how - or as the French would put it, the savoir-faire - of incorporating the new discovery called sugar into delicious recipes.

The world-famous French macaron made its entrance in 1552 but supposedly there is a recipe dating from the 12th century by the Abbaye de Cormery claiming this iconic invention.

In the 17th century, Anne of Austria brought chocolate to France from the Spanish court, and the concept of "pièces montées" (decoratively mounted confectionery centrepieces) made its entrance in Versailles. Vatel whipped up the first Chantilly cream, yet it wasn't until the 19th century that French pastry began to really take flight, quite possibly because patisserie was a privilege coveted by the aristocracy until then.

Today in 2017 la pâtisserie française is much more a chemical science than intuitive ingenuity. Not much space is left for improvisation although creativity still plays an important role especially in the presentation of such delicacies. Le savoir-faire comes avant tout!


Smashing view from the new Cordon Bleu building in Paris


Back to school and ready to take notes!


Who's who of Cordon Bleu chefs!


While others were busy signing the Treaty of Paris in 1815 and 
the act confirming the neutrality of Switzerland was signed on the same day, 
Monsieur Antonin Carême was making culinary history!

March 2, 2017

Paris' Belle Epoche under the rain

Paris was at it's February best when I took my seat on the bus to reach our meeting point in front of the impressive Opera Garnier building. It was cold, it was windy and it was raining. Equipped with my doudoune coat, a black hat and a pink umbrella I was the last one to join the group... just in time!

The young Corsican-German tour guide was charming with delicate features and soft manners. How is he ever going to survive the jungle of Paris was the first thought that crossed my mind.

Sure enough he guided us across the grands boulevards warding off traffic and making sure we were admitted to places usually not easily accessible with a group of 20 chattering International Expats. Young Monsieur Henri highlighted the main places of Parisian aristocrats' and Grand bourgeois' life during the Belle Epoche.

During the second half of the 19th century from so-called French "Second Empire" to "Belle Epoque" era, Paris was probably the most well-known destination for leisure and shopping in Europe: Opera Garnier, Opera Comique, covered passages such as Galerie Vivienne or Passage Jouffroy, as well as historical bank headquarters and the French stock-exchange, le Palais Brongniart.

So although he might need to work on his story-telling a bit - for he knew his facts and figures - it was a pleasure following our aristocratic guide through "his" Paris on a rainy winter morning.


Streets and architecture were completely renewed under Napoleon III and his famous prefect Baron Haussmann. Nowadays the 9th arrondissement of Paris is still an exceptional illustration of these impressive changes.


The one and only ... 


A majestic historical bank headquarter...


... clearly inspired by the Chateau de Chambord


Passage Jouffroy


I wonder where that staircase leads to?!?


Paris' wax museum is definately worth a visit 


Pretending to be a shopper in the 19th century


Covered arcades used iron and glass, materials very new for their epoche


A merchand preparing for the local book fair


The poshest and most beautiful of all covered galleries


Details of the Gallerie Vivienne


Symbol of Hermes, messenger of the gods, god of trade, thieves, travelers, sports, athletes, border crossings and guide to the Underworld... I wonder what the architect was thinking?!?


With the raising of the bourgeoisie, these galleries were created in order to facilitate the connection between the city centre and the Grands Boulevards


Today they are a beautiful tourist attraction 


Some French sense of humour hidden between the lines


Your local city hall of the 9ème arrondissement 
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