August 19, 2017

Italian beach culture at its best

After having spent the last ten days observing Italians at the beach I am forever in awe of the their beach culture. They really have it "down to a t". Suntanning is a profession and beach going is a serious affair which needs to be planned carefully.

The beach umbrella needs to be bored deep into the sandy spot that you strategically have chosen in reference to other bathers whom arrived before you and therefore for stole a better spot. The umbrelloni get pinned down in order to resist the gushes of wind. They provide just enough shade to keep the cooler protected from the sun.

Beach chairs are set up and towels spread out. Fathers inflate the air mattresses while the kids unload their multi-coloured plastic beach toys.

Everything has it's place and once the suntan lotion has been handed around everyone feels so hot and bothered it is time to hit the water.

This is where the Italians make me smile... no one bothers much with the swimming part, the majority of their activity boils down to communication and interpersonal relations. You chat to your new-found neighbour, you talk on the phone, you bump into aquaintances, you laugh with your friends, you play a ball game with the kids... all this with your feet in the water while working on your suntan... WITHOUT EVER taking your sunglasses off!

Hands moving, arms waving, heads thrown up or over... it is all part of the Italians' world-renowned communication style which when practiced in a swimsuit with the sea as their background turns into movie material.

After hours of conversation and a quick phone call to mamma (that is if she is not with you at the beach) the most important part of the day commences: il pranzo!

It's lunch time: i panini (sandwiches), la caprese (tomatoes & mozzarella) l'insalata di riso (rice salad), la frittata (pasta omelette), le melanzane fritte (fried eggplant), le palatine (chips) and la frutta (fruit) start making their entrance. THIS is why the umbrellone is essential... to guarantee the food in the cooler is held at the exact right temperature.

Each family member finds their place around the camp and lunch is devoured admits more discussion and talk about... food, of course!

Inevitably a siesta calls upon your body and how could you refuse?!?

A few hours on and one last quick swim before it is time to pack it all up again and head home to prepare the aperitivo before dinner.

August 13, 2017

Only in Naples

Always on the lookout for local authors when travelling, my eyes set on an all too familiar sounding phrase during our stopover at Napoli airport: "Lessons in Food and Famiglia from my Italian Mother-in-Law."

I don't usually share my Summer reading but this book was just too delicious to devour by myself.

"Only in Naples" is one of the most entertaining books I have read in a long time. Admittedly as an Anglo-American married to a Neapolitan it all makes perfect sense. The author has incorporated endless anecdotes that had me laughing out loud eventhough at the time I was living these experiences first-hand I probably did not find them so funny.

When marrying into another culture it takes time, patience and understanding which is not always easy when you are still trying to figure out married life or worse don't yet master the language or dialect spoken in your new home country.

Reading about many all too familiar situations from my marriage of nearly 20 years to a true Neapollitan, Katherine Wilson had me smile with contempt time and time again. It wasn't just me after all. What I had learnt the hard way over the years is delightfully described in chapters leading straight to the point. Heartfelt lessons that come from the author's soul and show a true and thorough analysis of Neapolitan culture. A culture that grips your stomach before letting your head get around it. People that steal your heart before you have realized what is happening. 

Many passages have been read out loud to my husband (something that never happens) just to relive those moments of genuine misunderstanding and subsequent comical outcomes or fuming frustration that we have experienced over two decades of common life.

The mention of 'A Marenna hit home big time with my adolescent son who would give almost everything for his Napoli team.

My teenage daughter declared age three she would no longer wear pink ruffles and still wears fluorescent t-shirts! La nonna did manage to kit her out with "proper" shoes for a few years though!

The description of Napoli's medical care had me in stiches. What would we do without that friend of a friend who knows the father's cousin of the hospital's head doctor?

And when my husband asked if the fresh eggs had been mentioned in the book, it was proof that "Only in Naples" was a deep and authentic picture of everyday Neapolitan life. A rendering that needs to be felt, tasted and lived rather than simply read and understood.

This book is a treasure and should be read by every foreigner who is marrying into a Neapolitan family. For it is not only the person but the clan you are committing to.

As my father said to me just before leading me down the aisle: " You wanted Italian, now you got to deal with Italian!"

August 12, 2017

Stunning Costa Smeralda

Sardegna is our summer destination this year, an Italian holiday mecca Expat boy has wanted to visit for a long time. A paradise for beach lovers and sun goddesses like myself. I did spend many a summer holiday in the southern part of this island when I was a little girl. When you could still pick starfish from the sea by just reaching down to your feet and Decathlon had not yet invented the pop-up tent that seems to be spreading like colourful mushrooms along the beaches fighting the winds.

Following the advice of my wonderful Italian girlfriend we rented a car and much to my teenage kids' delight took off for a tour around the island. A promise was made we would not visit museums nor churches in return they would not complain!

We started off with the charming artisans' market in San Pantaleo an enchanting village in the heart of the Costa Smeralda where the town square turns into a local treasure chest of craftsmanship and becomes a true mecca for tourists searching for products crafted by local ceramists, wrought iron craftsmen and skilled inlayers.

We carried on towards swanky Porto Cervo, known as the jewel of Costa Smeralda often referred to as a favourite playground for the rich and famous who flock to this yacht dotted marina for some fun in the sunshine. So, we pretended to mingle while enjoying a true Italian ice cream before moving on swiftly...

A stop at the infamous Cala Di Volpe, overlooking one of the most beautiful turquoise coves of Costa Smeralda, Hotel Cala di Volpe was built to resemble an ancient fishing village, with porches, arches and stained glass but it just oozes discreet luxury and elegance.
Pretending to be clients we confidently strode into the lobby and straight across to the terrasse to take in the magnificent view onto their private little harbour and the stunning pool area.

Not being able to resist we ventured further into the hotel and encountered the most magnificent exposition of Dolce & Gabbana's Haute Joaillerie. Who knew D&G made exquisite and unique pieces of precious stones? The curator was friendly, patient and very happy to go into detail of each piece exposed until my two rather edgy teenagers decided it was time to move on!

We made a pit stop at a lovely little hotel named after the flowers Le Ginestre for old memories sake. We had stayed here twice when we were still living in Milano. Eighteen years later and it hadn't changed a bit... which made my hubby and I feel like it had been yesterday since Expat boy was paddling in the hotel baby pool.

Porto Rotondo - named after the circular nature of the bay on which is was built - was next on our route and we were not disappointed. More chic shops lining an exclusive yet enchanting little harbour. Having found a strategic table "al bar" of Piazzetta San Marco a cocktail sounded tempting but we settled for a delicious "espresso" to keep our energy up and running.

On our way back to the hotel the kids fell asleep in the car which goes to prove that Mummy definitely has more stamina when it comes to sightseeing or is it just all linked to ones level of motivation?!?

August 7, 2017

Bon voyage

Ready to hit the beach... 
Wondering where?
Stay tuned...
Bon voyage!

August 5, 2017

Vote for Paris' Best Expat Blog 2017

Once again my blog has been nominated for Best Expat blog in Paris 2017 by Expatriates Magazine.

BEST OF PARIS is their annual campaign to find the companies, services and achievements expatriates in Paris feel deserve recognition.

If you believe that Expat with Kids in Paris has earned a little recognition in the Parisian blogsphere please cast a vote by simply selecting the category Best Expat blog in Paris 2017 from the dropdown menu and choose who you vote for.

Make my weekend and click here:
Mille mercis mes amis!

August 3, 2017

Guess who's in the news?

I can't help but to feel extremely chuffed with myself today. Enjoying my morning online news fix while still lingering in bed, imagine my surprise when all of a sudden I spot my Instagram picture from the day before featured in a Swissinfo article! is the international service of the Swiss Broadcasting Corporation distributing information about Switzerland, directed above all at an international audience interested in Switzerland, as well as at Swiss citizens living abroad. Yep, that target would be me and my blogs Expat with Kids and Expat with Kids in Paris.

Feeling inspired on August 1st, the Swiss National Day and - I admit - rather homesick I decided to post a typically Swiss picture on my Instagram account with the hashtag #1augustabroad. Tired of posting the same old red and white Swiss flag I came up with a different sort of cross.

Well, my stylised version of a Swiss flag capturing the emotions of Swiss-ness, home-cooking and home-sickness all in one sure didn't go unnoticed. in their article about How Swiss National Day was celebrated around the world put my photo right up top.

Ahh, what a little hashtag can do for you?
And, what a great feeling when you wake up and read the news to discover you're in it!
But now, if you'll excuse me, I need to get to work and make some Rösti...

July 31, 2017

How far can you push a brand?

Over the past six years I have been shopping for many Parisian souvenirs; as farewell gifts, as personal souvenirs, as a little attention for dinner parties or luncheon gifts but this has topped it all... a cereal brand called Puffed Heart, really?

What is a puffed heart anyways and what is its connection to Paris? The French would say "C'est n'importe quoi!" but some Spanish supermarket brand manager clearly thinks the Eiffel Tower image will sell in Madrid... even on a box of cereals! I might add at 85 cents it is the cheapest box of cereals I have ever come across. Vive la France!

July 29, 2017

My life as a proud and independent Expat woman

For my 30 year high school reunion I was asked to write about my path of life after having graduated. At first I was not so sure I wanted to share this with the wider public but then again it seems I am on a roll about revealing more about the author behind the blog this week! So here goes:

The deal with my father was that I needed to obtain my Swiss Matura thereafter I could study wherever I wished to. I obliged and of course took off to the United States the minute I got my High School Diploma thinking that I would finally fit in with the Americans I had looked up to for so many years. After two years, however, I came running back to Europe finishing my BA at the Bocconi University in Italy haven woken up to the realisation that I was much more Continental than I ever knew or would have liked to admit!

I decided to stay in Europe and even headed back to good ol' Switzerland landing the perfect job for myself as Export Area Manager at Caran d'Ache the world-renowned coloured pencil producer. Three years later I was hired for yet another dream job as European Export Manager with Elizabeth Arden, Unilever's cosmetic division. Yet again I was travelling the globe, working with colours and dabbing in a touch of luxury.

As I moved on to Marketing Director for Europe and the Middle East and my career was taking off in the right direction I lost my heart to a charming Italian co-worker who swept me off my feet and all the way to Argentina.

I was not going to give up my life and career to move the other side of the globe without a ring on my finger and his condition was that I follow him with a work visa. I found myself a job as Business Development Director with the French advertising company Publicis in Buenos Aires and off we went.

In 2000 the crisis hit Latin America and cost me my job, I discovered was pregnant and we decided I was going to be an Expat wife - for better or for worse - working as a team with my husband.

Our son was born a true Porteño and a few years later we moved to Paris, France and then on to Milano, Italy where I gave birth to our little girl. With two kids in tow we moved from Milan to Madrid, Spain then to Lugano, Switzerland and back to Paris where we are now based.

I have happily followed my husband over the past two decades rebuilding our life time and again from scratch not losing focus of what works best for our family. I have developed my own personal interests in International education and Expat blogging which I pursue with passion.

For in order to be a proud and independent Expat woman you must never trail but trail-blaze with passion and conviction!

My last business trip to the Middle East many moons ago!

July 27, 2017

A stroll around Madrid

Philip Johnson, one of the architects behind the Puerta de Europa towers, is said to have proclaimed, "We must end the right angle if we do not want to die of boredom. The skyscraper is over; we can forget it." He was true to his word in his design of these, the first towers in the world designed at an incline of 15 degrees. 
Inaugurated in 1996, the Puerta de Europa is a pair of 26-story office buildings located at Madrid's northern edge that have become a symbol of the city and are Bankia's operational headquarters. 

Fire was a feared enemy and a common front for many people in Madrid so in 1822, through a private initiative, the owners of houses located within the walls of Madrid chose to constitute a society in which each of the partners was insurer as well as insured. This association created a fund with which damages and effects caused by the fires could be repaired. This is how the Mutual Fire Insurance Society of Casas de Madrid emerged. 
Houses were identified with the sign: "Asegurada de Incendios"

BiciMAD a new means of public transport in the city of Madrid, offers a self-catering rental service with electric bikes which are practical, simple and ecological.

A little Guardian angel is always welcome.

Hidden among fashionable brand stores in the Salamanca neighbourhood, this food market has provided the locals with fresh food and delicatessen products for more than 130 years. People come here to shop seafood, meet, cheese, fruit and much more.

A peep through the gate into the gardens where I celebrated my 40th birthday in style!
 The building was designed in 1912 by architect Joaquín Rojí López-Calvo and built from 1914 to 1917 as a mansion for the Marquises of Amboage. It was purchased by the Italian Government in 1939 to become the Italian Embassy in Madrid also known as Palacio de Amboage.

What used to be the mythical Teatre Beatriz inaugurated in 1925 then transformed into a restaurant by Philippe Starck in 1990 has now become a trendy retailer with a rather impressive design overhaul. 
When modernisation kills tradition...

Wondering what's behind these doors?

Off to a serious shopping spree at Plaza Norte, one of the largest shopping malls in Madrid, located to the north of the city. The interior has the feel of an 18th century palace to it, boasting Venetian-style lighting in the form of lamps and large chandeliers, marble floors, columns, staircases and balconies, and lapis lazuli obelisks. The effect is an intriguing mix of present-day modern technology combined with the gracious elegance of past eras. It won the prestigious 'Architect of the Year Award' at the 5th Central & Eastern European Real Estate Quality Awards held in 2008.

July 23, 2017

I never DID fit in...

If you ask me where home is my answer is Switzerland. I spent most of my life living in the four different lingustic parts of this tiny little country and Swiss German is as much part of my identity as English.

I'll spare the details if it might be American or British English because it is a mix of both as I am what nowadays you call a TCK. The term of Third Culture Kid was still not invented when I grew up, it would have made things a whole lot easier because I could have fit in.

Being a foreign kid in Zürich in the 1970s was not always an easy affair not even with a perfect Zürischnurre (the local dialect) which sounded so local my high school friends later teased me about it.

As a young teenager I would have given everything for my mum to speak German rather than English to me while in public. My dad loved speaking Swiss German with his broad American accent only to embarrass me in front of my friends.

I never quite fit into the Swiss German mould. I did not know how to define myself but I remember wishing I could find some like-minded peers.

Turns out the two companions I made during my Primary years - who both seemed as exotic to the Swiss as myself thanks to a foreign parent - are still my two closest friends today.

Looking back on my dad's efforts and my mother's total insouciance of adapting to the locals makes me smile. They had moved to Switzerland with the goal of carving out a better future for their kids allowing us to grow up multilingual and feeling at home in various cultures.

Today I am proud and comfortable to be different. All those childhood experiences made me the person I am now. I speak different languages and enjoy adapting to foreign cultures but it hasn't always been an easy ride.

However, the world has become a much smaller place and it is so much easier for my kids to fit in... mainly because somewhere along the line the mould has been thrown out!

July 21, 2017

A hot lazy Summer day

What do you do on a hot Summer day when the thermometer hits 40°C in Madrid?

You hang around in the air-conditioned living room with your teenage kids because they rock.

You decide to treat your teenagers for a milkshake in a cool (air-conditioned) diner.

You hit the mall and buy some pink flamingo lights... just because!

You decide which bikini to wear because this is today's most important decision to take!

Finally, you hang out at the pool with a good book since your kids have shared enough time with Mummy today and are listening to their music.

July 18, 2017

Busy in Madrid

Our second home is Madrid. Well, if I am honest it is where I'd like to live all year round. Although we left this city over ten years ago it still feels like we've never actually really moved away. But, it's complicated... life gets in the way... and before you know it you've landed in another place and start all over again.

Nevertheless, we have managed to hang on to a little slice of Spanish lifestyle and we savour every moment of the summer weeks we spend here. Viva España! 

You know you've arrived in Spain when the Osborne bull crosses your path.

 As every year... just in time to celebrate my birthday with my BBFs... in style!

The annual visit to Warner Bros Park is a promise I have kept to my kids for over a decade.

You can never have enough pool time!

A bit of exercise won't hurt, especially when the tennis courts are PiNk!

Some creative activity all in the spirit of Peace and LOVE!

July 15, 2017

Ibiza and friends

When your Andalusian friend invites you to celebrate her birthday in Ibiza you know it will be an unforgettable experience. 

... when you know that la reina del flamenco and her French husband have travelled the world and their friends are as outgoing as you are therefore it is guaranteed to be a brilliant weekend.

... when you know the Paella and the Cava will be served in abundance and the good vibes will be flowing freely. 

... when you know the International crowd will easily mix with the Spanish family and friends and have the entire restaurant dancing on the tables ... at lunchtime!

... when you know the sunshine, the food, the music and the ambiance entices you to party and have a fabulous time. 

... when you know the long hot summer days at the beach will be followed by a Mediterranean sunset cruise in the evening breeze. 

... when you know that Ibiza stands for peace and love and at our age that is just what you enjoy most!

Our own private little "swimming pool" surrounded by ancient fisher huts

The cava is cool and we can start the party!

The dishes are exotic, creative and tasty

Who needs WIFI when you have friends?

Not only the flamingos are lounging in the sun

Exploring the interior countryside of Ibiza

The parish church dedicated to Saint Augustine and was built in 1786 and the only church on the island facing to the west instead of the east.

San Agustín is one of the best-preserved villages on the island that is a slice of the real Ibiza, and a very tranquil one at that.

Enjoying the sunset cruise off the coast of San Antonio

July 14, 2017

Happy Bastille Day

It is France's birthday today. Usually this French National holiday goes unnoticed in our family since we are sitting in the sweltering Spanish heat this time of year but due to a rather important guest of honour the world has it's eyes on Paris today.

Once again thanks to Donald Trump who attracts so much media attention the world now knows what Bastille Day is just like the globe followed the US election and received a lesson on the American voting system due to all the press coverage.

My kids could not believe their ears when Expat hubby pulled out his tablet after lunch declaring he wanted to watch a recap of the July 14th parade along the Champs-Elysées, the highlight of the French national holiday celebrations. Every year in the morning - since 1880, almost without exception - the spotlight is on the French military regiments as they parade down the avenue.

Later in the day, the focus will be shifting to the eagerly-awaited fireworks display at the Eiffel Tower at which point we will probably devouring our Jamon Iberico and Croquetas along with some Tinto de verano on our terrace enjoying the evening breeze after a scorching 40°C hot day...

... and if we have enough Tinto de verano, we might even sing "La Marseillaise"

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