February 18, 2018

Motivation is all it takes...

After a gruelling nine hour car trip from Paris to the Swiss Alps with heavy traffic from the word "go" we finally arrived at our destination to find the ski shop closed - meaning that we need to have our ski bindings checked the next morning before we set off for the mountain - as well as the local supermarket which basically translated into "no dinner".

A quick pit stop to unload the car and I am back on the road heading towards the next biggest Coop to buy dinner and the next day's breakfast. If you are a Swiss Expat a trip to the local Coop can evoke all kinds of vibes. For my family it symbolises all the food that we crave when living abroad. It's a guaranteed cure for homesickness.

Much to everyone's disappointment the next day it was pouring with rain. Little did that stop Expat girl's enthusiasm as she rallied the troupes to go skiing.

An hour later, there we were, on top of the mountain practically on our own with zero visibility but an unbeatable motivation, wanting to relish in that feeling when you hit the slopes for the first time in a season.

Nothing was going to stop us. We skied beneath the rain until we were soaked and our jackets were weighed down and we could wring them out. We skied until we were freezing and the water dripped inside of our googles. We skied until we had found our rhythm on the slopes and curved graciously down the hill. We skied until we had had enough...

A few years ago I would never ever had ventured out to ski in the rain. I am starting to wonder if - after living in France for seven years - the Parisian meteorological landscape is starting to get the better of us?!?

February 10, 2018

When you can't wait to hit the slopes...

Last time Paris saw this much snow was in 2013 when an inspired skier posted a video of himself skiing down the front of Montmartre. Needless to say it went viral.

This year there have been quite a few copy cats hanging around Montmartre's "slope" waiting for their 15 minutes of glory.

However, I was surprised to find two fully equipped skier attempting to ski the Trocadero gardens yesterday?

I guess these two just couldn't wait to hit the slopes... oh wait, is that my daughter?!? Just kidding.

February 7, 2018

The silence of snow...

The only way to describe Paris today would be with the German proverb "vom Regen in die Traufe kommen". The French version would be "tomber de Charybde en Scylla". The English would say "out of the frying pan and into the fire" which however does not mention any rain.

For it is the rain we have been fighting for months, literally, hoping the Seine would not completely flood Paris' bridges. The river has not even started to roll back when ... the snow hits us!

Snow has paralysed most parts of Paris the past 24 hours. Transport conditions are complicated, with buses out of service, trains cancelled, metros suffering, Uber collapsed, taxis unavailable and police encouraging the public to stay at home and not use cars.

Schools are still open albeit the school buses not running and the kids are having a blast rampaging through the snow. It is cold but the scenery is unique.

And when I stop to look and listen, it is the silence that I feast on, for never has the city centre been so muffled to the point where I can hear nothing but the fresh snow crunching beneath my feet.

La grandeur et la splendeur de l'architecture parisienne

The Eiffel Tower hiding in the fog

It's a true winter wonderland 

Never a man to be afraid of the cold!

A fairytale picture

When a panoramic shot says more than words 

The Metro's having difficulties as well.

Hiding in the woods

La mairie de Paris is open for business 

Nestling in a French bistro for lunch while the storm continues outside.

February 4, 2018

Diamonds are a girl's best friend

When the girls get together it is bound to be fun. What better occasion than the opening of Boucheron's exhibit celebrating 160 years of the first high-end jeweller to open a shop on the today infamous Place Vendôme?

Nestled in the courtyard of the Monnaie de Paris - a building which is worth a visit in itself - we were invited to follow the founder's footsteps by experiencing a thematic approach retracing the jeweller's creative process. Since 1858 Boucheron has embodied excellence in jewellery. "The Maison has a bold style, a free spirit and keeps on inventing the classics of tomorrow" is their slogan.

The exhibition began in the opulent Salon Chinois, where M. Boucheron (or his impersonation) welcomed us into his secret cabinet commissioned in the early 20th century and used as a place to discreetly host its top clients. Within its library, animated books revealed more about the company itself, Frederic Boucheron and his iconic creations – including the enduring Question Mark necklace that still features today – as well as the more contemporary Serpent Boheme collection, which has remained a core part of the brand's offering since its introduction in 1968. We found out how a piece of high jewellery is made, from seeking inspiration in the archives to bringing the final enhancing touches to a collection.

While showcasing 250 precious pieces, a purpose-built geodesic dome in glass and steel anchored the experience squarely in the digital here and now, the dedicated Vendôrama app, in fact, was an integral part of the experience.

The visit culminated with a set piece tailor-made for selfie-centric times; a scaled panorama of the Place Vendôme, proving that diamonds are a girl's best friend by immortalising our happy faces with a 360-degree camera coverage and silver confetti. Marilyn Monroe would have loved it!

Let experience begin...

Each visitor received a silver bullet to complete this chef d'oeuvre

Taking Victoria's Secret modelling to a whole different level

Le Salon Chinois de M. Boucheron

Peeking into M. Boucheron's orders from 1887

Finishing la soirée avec une petite coupe entre copines.

February 3, 2018

I'm off to the Caribbean...

So, I've decided I have had enough rain to last me a lifetime this winter. Don't anybody ever tell me how bad the weather is in London, Paris is worse! I am off to the Caribbean... if only in my dreams!

A whole new outlook!

If I were a letter, I'd post myself to this destination!

The locals here are so much more laid-back.

Palmtrees wherever I look 

I'd get my flamingo friends out for the day... 

... and have lunch with a view...

... go snorkelling in the afternoon...

... and have a little workout before dinner!

Unfortunately, reality at the moment looks like this!

January 31, 2018

Paris in 50 shades of grey

Yet another rainy day and the monotony is starting to seriously dent the Parisian's state of mind. A promotional holiday deal to St. Lucia spotted in the Sunday Times seems increasingly enticing!?! Maybe I will take a tour of the four listed greenhouses at Les Grandes Serres and meander the profuse tropical forests of the Botanical Garden this afternoon?

La Grande Dame de Fer always looks good, no matter what the weather

The Statue of Liberty might have her feet standing in water soon?

Searching for alternative entertainment to keep up the spirits.

Spot the metro above ground

Looking rather grey...

Even the Grand Palais has lost its sparkle.

Architectural buildings actually look better in shades of grey

Looking at the current tear around a sculpture from the top of the Les Invalides bridge.

January 28, 2018

When the water hits Paris

The Seine in Paris has been flooding for days and is set to reach a peak of nearly six metres this afternoon. Giving in to my curiosity and ... I am honest, feeling chuffed Roger has won the Australian Open (hop Schwiiz!) ... curiosity got the better of me. Taking hubby by his hand we headed towards the Eiffel Tower and started our Sunday afternoon stroll along the river with the millions of tourists.

Roads and paths along the river have been closed off and the metro line running alongside the river has been suspended in the central section. The Louvre has closed the lower level and the Musée d'Orsay and L'Orangerie are also on high alert.

River traffic has long been halted on the Seine, which is normally packed with tour boats and owners of the city's picturesque houseboats worry their vessels might drift into the quais or the next bridge given the very strong current at which the water is flowing beneath the century old arches.

The river has not quite hit the six meter level from 2016 nor "La crue de la Seine de 1910" where the Seine reached 8,62m. Nevertheless, everyone is wondering: What will happen in the years to come?

Quais and Riverbanks are blocked off near the Eiffel Tower

The "peniche" house boats are moored from every angle.

The Bateau mouche tourist boats are unreachable by foot.

"Due to the flood, departures are cancelled today"

This Parisian resident is having a field day.

Lamp posts sticking out the water like sad sunflowers 

The Zouave statue - traditionally used as a gauge to see how high the river is - has the water well up to his cape!

January 27, 2018

Look on the sunny side

Ironic that the idiom of the day popping up on my computer this morning is: look on the sunny side (of life/things)

Even though the definition is to view one's life, situation, or circumstances with a generally optimistic and cheerful attitude; to focus on what is positive in life it seems hard to do so when winter has been one of the darkest ever. Paris has been through 3 months of solid rainfall beating a 100-year record of precipitation.

Paris region clocked 10 hours of sunshine by mid-January when the monthly norm should be 63. Needless to say Madrid's average hours of sunlight for the first month of the year is 148. And then you wonder why I am always escaping to Spain!

Health experts say a shortage of sunshine can lead to seasonal depression, whose symptoms include a lack of energy, a desire to sleep and a perceived need to consume greater quantities of sugar and fat.

Therefore... bring on the chocolate!

January 24, 2018

Nonna's favourite family recipe

It seemed fitting to share one of Nonna's recipes today. I have taken a page out of Expat boy's homemade cookbook which he published age 15. The story behind the dish says it all...

January 22, 2018

La Nonna

It has been a long and emotional day. The sun shining onto a sea of antenna-studded dilapidated flat Neapolitan rooftops intercepted by church domes and washing lines marked the frame for the small procession of a black-dressed congregation following the ornate wooden coffin placed in the dignified hearse which drove along the century old cobbled street.

After a short illness my mother-in-law has passed away yesterday and only 24 hours later every smallest detail has been put into motion to lay her to rest with dignity and respect.

Neapolitans have a very close relationship with death as it plays a vital part of the chaotic network that connects past and present in Naples. It is difficult as a foreigner to understand all the finesses that comes with a funeral. There are well-established rituals and prayers to perform.

During the day following her death family and friends attended the customary prayer vigil, they  mourned and payed their last respects, they prayed for her, talked to her or just sat beside her in silence. Coffee was passed around every once in a while freshly prepared by an upstairs or downstairs neighbour. Food appeared magically so the family needn’t worry about the hospitality that the Neapolitans are famous for. Tears, caresses, murmurs and low voices, rosary beads and pictures of saints were proof of how much my mother-in-law was respected and loved amongst her friends and neighbours.

The next morning as the procession slowly made its way by foot towards the church not a single car honked or complained about the pace the hearse was advancing. All the shop owners along the way came out to show their respect and the hundreds of motor bikers which crowd Napoli’s streets slowed down to make the sign of the cross and bow their head towards the coffin while driving by.

It seemed to be one of those days that Nonna would have enjoyed walking to her local church with the sun shining and a fresh temperature. Even at 15 C she would have worn her fur coat and her jewellery never forgetting to wrap a scarf around her neck to avoid the draft in the over 400 year old little church with the pink ceiling!

Nonna would have risen early to prepare tomatoe sauce, friarielli or pastiera in order to make sure she would have more time to spend with us during our short weekend visits. Not to mention the cooking odours that need never to be smelt, ever!

She would entertain the kids for hours when they were little, hiding Kinder chocolate and playing “fuoco, fuocarello” with them. She taught them how to play Neapolitan card games and spoilt them with gifts. She even taught Expat boy how to cook Neapolitan dishes and I have copied her unbeatable Christmas Cassata recipe.

She will be dearly missed by all of us but never forgotten for she has passed on so much Southern Italian heritage through her tales and by her deeds that she will live on in our family’s traditions, rituals and stories. And wherever we may live in the world the children will always find their way back to Napoli thanks to the roots she so lovingly nurtured and a cultural identity she so strongly represented.

Ci mancherai Nonna.

January 13, 2018

Where I live: Paris in B&W

A few years back a fellow Paris blogger challenged me to post a coloured themed Paris collage. A vignette of greens was the result making Paris look very lush and verdant in the spring!

Winter is very grey in the city of lights and a blue sky is rare and much appreciated when it does finally show. The city's architecture, however, looks stunning in black and white hues.

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