January 15, 2017

Jordanian hospitality at its best

A simple invitation via WhatsApp by a Jordanian friend inviting us for lunch and a little cooking class beforehand to teach us some Middle Eastern culinary specialities.

I turned up on a freezing morning to find not only our regular group of girlfriends but a lovely group of International ladies most of whom are long-term (and I mean VERY long term) residents. All of a sudden I felt a whole lot younger. In the kids' school community I am rather considered part of the furniture as I have been around so much longer than the average expat.

Full of smiles and curiosity I sat down to meet my fellow lunch ladies and give them the Expat interview. Turns out they are as professional at it as I am which made me smile even more.

It is rather refreshing not having to go through the same Spiel of explaining the good and the bad side of Paris to newcomers. These ladies are Parisian veterans and clearly ahead of the game.

But wait, weren't we here to cook?

Undeniably the food had all been prepared: chopped, cut, sautéed, soaked, and pre-cooked. All WE were asked to do is to fill some Mosoukan rolls, stir the parsley salad and spread the zaatar mixture over the little circles of dough. Even that was quite a task given that we were all trying to either catch up with our friends or get to know our new friends better... because wherever it is you may be, it is your friends who make your world... n'est-ce pas?

A big Shukraan goes out to the perfect hostess who received us into her welcoming home on a cold winter day. The food as well as the company was exquisite, unique, international and decidedly spicy!

The table place cards had our nationality rather than our name on them!
And just look at the colour of the table decoration... 

Manakish Zaatar in the making

The end result: thyme pastry

Mosoukan rolls: I made the one on the bottom right! ;)

I will be pinching this presentation idea for future reference: parsley salad 

Makloubeh with eggplant: let's just say we sprinkled the pine nuts on top!

Mouhalabieh and date cake... followed by dates and baklava!!!

January 13, 2017

The magical world of languages

Tucked away behind the Saint Sulpice church is a little magical world of linguistic treasures. If you love languages and are intrigued by their versatility like I am, it is a gem you must explore. This unconventional and educational exposé of languages is totally under the radar of Parisian map of museums. But boy, it is so worth spreading the word.

The interactive exhibit is the brainchild of a very passionate and studious New Zealander who many years ago wrote directly to Avram Noam Chomsky, the father of modern linguistics, asking him of the existence of a Language Museum. It seems there was one in the US but apparently not eager on collaboration. This was not to stop Mark Oremland, creator and designer of Mundolingua.

Mundolingua is home of well-thought themed spaces housing touch screens, maps, panels, scrolls, self-made quizzes and an extraordinary visual explanation of language grammar comparison. The Micro cinema allows you to view cult films and they even have their own tower of Babel.

You can give yourself up to the fascinating world of languages in this original - why yes, quirky -three floored museum covering 170m2 of modular spaces where multimedia technologies coexists with recycled natural materials and collectables from across the globe.

Mark even commissioned a life-size replica of the Rosetta Stone to the British Museum. This first recovered Ancient Egyptian bilingual text in modern time provided the key to the modern understanding of Egyptian hieroglyphs... now if that does get your imagination going?!?

Without any state support or subsidy, Mark has embarked on this crazy adventure in the hope of making it an inescapable place for all language lovers, polyglots, adults and children alike. It has definitely made it into the top ten best places to visit in my Paris book.

Mundolingua, a little gem hidden between St. Sulpice and the Jardin de Luxembourg 

Welcome! Bienvenu! Willkommen! Benvenuto! etc, etc, etc ...

Sounds and phonetic alphabets 

One of the many modular spaces: this one is about WORDS

How to tell an American accent with 25 simple questions

Or how about a little French dictée?

Which language does your family belong to?

We can also do linguistic accents... a Swiss example

My personal favourite: a home-made visual grammar explanation comparing five different languages 

A little snapshot of the communication tower of Babel

You are always welcome at the Micro Cinema 

You can have fun with languages in the basement

Now the question is: in which language do I want to play?

Yes, this would be a lie detector!

Expat boy would probably even read THIS book!

Who remembers floppy disks?

An original Braille writer

 The Braille corner

Have you ever seen a real Enigma machine?

January 11, 2017

The show WILL go on ... somehow?!?

This week, I am appalled to read that the U.S. president-elect has issued an official order which requires politically appointed ambassadors to leave their overseas posts by his Inauguration Day.

Now while this is usually a pretty standard procedure, the mandate issued breaks with the tradition of providing even the “briefest of grace periods”. Supposedly HE will not even allow a handful of ambassadors, particularly those with school-age children, to remain in place until the end of the academic year.

This hits very close to home since postings abroad are often motivated by a job offer but ultimately revolved around the children's school calendar.

The order threatens to leave the United States without Senate-confirmed representatives across the globe for months. It's as if a Multinational company were to call its General Managers back to headquarters and expect all the affiliates to fend for themselves. It's just not good for business.

So, as an Expat I feel for all the families who will be uprooted in the middle of the school year! As a voter I am shocked to observe how little thought goes into these actions! As a citizen I need to hurry up and renew my passport...

In the meantime, I'll just post my photos taken during a holiday tour around the American Ambassador's residence in Paris just before Christmas.

The inner courtyard of the Hôtel de Pontalba on Rue Faubourg St. Honoré. The estate was acquired by a Rothschild in 1876, then sold to the U.S. Government and is today, the residence of the American Ambassador to France.

A gigantic Christmas tree adorns the staircase of this hôtel particulier, a grand 60,000-square-foot residence in central Paris.

Flowers are prominent throughout the residence...

... as are the little feminine touches...

... and festive decorations in red, white and green.

Playing with reflections

A quiet corner in the ladies' garderobe 

The back terrasse looking onto the gardens

The only photo spotted of Mr. President

You'll never guess who did the Christmas decorations?
The Ralph Lauren creative team!!!

The "Art in Embassies program" is an arrangement whereby the ambassadors can chose local, Americana, or contemporary art to decorate their residence while in office.

One of the living rooms...

...in a whole row of reception areas.

Another Christmas tree in the entrance hiding the fountain

In true American style the US Ambassador's residence is all decked out in extravagant holiday décor. 

January 8, 2017

A late recap of inventive window displays

This post might be a little late but then again according to French tradition I am still allowed to wish Happy New Year. Here, it can even be considered rude to fail to wish Bonne Année, usually followed by Meilleurs Voeux, to anybody you haven't seen since December 31st…right up until the end of January.

In keeping with tradition, the facades of Parisian department stores (Printemps Haussmann, Galeries Lafayette, BHV, Le Bon Marché) are adorned with the most stunning festive decorations. Therefore, I will indulge you with some typical Parisian Christmas window shopping.

Le Bon Marché, the most Parisian department store

Printemps early in the morning

Shop windows put on a show with amazing theatre sets 
featuring animated figures and magical decor in an interactive world

A foodies' galore

Not quite sure what Madonna's is doing in the middle of it all?!?

French perfume... which one to choose?

Baccarat's crystal symphony

Jimmy Choo's interpretation of a Christmas window display

Inspired by Dorothee?!? 

Gallerie Lafayette have gone all white and ecological this year

A penguin's dream... a Louis Vuitton handbag?!?

Delicately intricate... just like the French

A paper mock up of the gallerie's dome

A giant Christmas tree made of paper under the dome 

Inspiring and festive... all in the spirit of recycling!
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