October 30, 2012

A French take on Hollywood

When I was a little girl I dreamt of becoming a Hollywood actress. But life takes over and you grow up. An old boss once asked me in which era I would have liked to live in, if I could choose. My answer: Hollywood late 1940's!

Paris vue par Hollywood was therefore an aboslute "must" for me to visit. The current exhibit at the city hall features still photos and film clips from the more than 800 Hollywood movies about or set in Paris—shot on location or on backlot sets—from 1900’s The Girl from Paris to last year’s Midnight in Paris by Woody Allen.

It's a sunny day and there are no queues...hurray!

Audrey Hepburn's Funny Face released in 1957

Bonjour Paris a song written by George and Ira Gershwin

I came across this Palmolive soap ad from 1921 which made me smile

Ninotchka is a 1939 American film featuring Greta Garbo as a stern Russian woman sent to Paris on official business only to find herself attracted to a man who represents everything she is supposed to detest.

April in Paris: the original 1933 hit was performed by Freddy Martin, and the 1952 remake by Ella Fitzgerald & Louis Armstrong

A hitlist from 1958 features The Parisians at No.1

Leslie Caron as Gigi singing I don't understand the Parisians

October 25, 2012

Shopping under a sparkling Dome

Feeling slightly under the weather this past week I decided to opt for a fairly easy cultural visit at La Galerie inside the famous department store Les Galeries Lafayette.

The most impressive feature is its soaring dome with a vast colourful glass cupola. The dome was designed by architect Ferdinand Chanut and was inaugurated in October 1912. It stands a mesmerizing 141 feet high and includes a pulley system that raises the store’s Christmas tree each winter. To celebrate the dome’s centenary, the flagship store on Boulevard Haussmann has unveiled a 21st-century façade.

Did you know that no less than 11 million foreigners come to visit the Haussmann store every year, and each client spends more than 1000 Euros there?

I was impressed to see that the entire shopping layout had changed and that one has access to the edge of the atrium and therefore can look up at the glowing stained-glass of master craftsman Jacques Gruber and the iron maker Louis Majorelle. Last time I visited the store I had to creep behind the clothes stalls to take my photos and was instantely told off by some defiant sales person not to venture behind the counters.

The exhibit at La Galerie “Chronicle of a Creative Itinerary,” showcases changes in fashion and retail over the last 100 years, highlighting the history through archival material including photographs, posters and films.

The feature “100 years under the dome 1912-2012” displays items by date around a circular, dome-like installation. My favourite part was the funky carpet selection.

 Eye-popping mix of carpet patterns, all taken from past examples in the store

A panoply of shopping history

A lineup of newspapers with the original Galeries Lafayette advertising 

Displaying items by date around a circular, dome-like installation

Qualities of our clients: chic, elegance, loyalty, good taste, economy, order, attention

"If you haven't seen the Galeries Lafayettes, you haven't seen Paris!"

Staff instructions from 1912: It is FORBIDDEN to sell to foreigners unless they speak French. In this case ask for a translator at the main entrance.

So true!

Time to head home ... where's the elevator boy?

October 24, 2012

Teenage shopping experience

Abercrombie and Fitch, need I say more?

When kids hit their preteens they seem to shift into a whole new branded sphere. Refusing to stand in line under the pouring rain just to set foot in the store, I managed to avoid entering their world for one whole year.

With Expat boy's birthday coming up, I had no choice but to face the music... literally!

I had seen the gorgeous welcoming boys many a times passing by infront of the store but now I'm inside and if I hear one more "Hey guys, whatsup?" I will scream. Have you ever tried answering: "Fine. And you?" They look at you dumbfounded because they don't speak any English!!!!
Lovely smiles and giddy dancing sales personnel works for me - especially if they're eye candy - but there are limits!
Five different sales assistants gave me five different ERRONEOUS answers to my inquiries. One of them even insisted they didn't carry zipper jackets. Come again? Even I know A&F sells zipped hoodies.

The music was so loud I needed to shout to ask for a size just to be told they can't give it to me unless I wait until they get it out of the warehouse. "Well, what are you waiting for? Go take that great smile and lovely body of yours over to the depository!"

Meanwhile I'll wonder around in the four-storey emporium that doesn't carry kids sizes and is so dark I can't even see the sizes let alone the colour of the article!

I keep on tripping over the poor janitors' brooms who are scrubbing the floor. Please?!? Clean the store when your clients aren't in it shopping.

Where has that assistant gone to? Maybe if I mess up their layout a bit someone will turn up? Sure enough my strategy works to perfection. Two youngsters come rushing up to straighten the sweaters I just pulled out on purpose. Gotcha! Now follow me because I am your mystery shopper. I bet they have never heard of that kind of quality control. Lots of show and little substance like so many other things nowadays.

As I am walking home I am wondering if I got the colours right!?

October 22, 2012

A little ride down the Seine

The great thing about having guests to visit is that you end up doing activities
you would have never done otherwise ... like taking a "bateau mouche"
down the river Seine.

The Tour Eiffel is the tallest structure in Paris and the most-visited paid monument in the world; 7.1 million people ascended it in 2011.

Most people consider the 19th century Pont Alexandre III the most beautiful bridge in Paris. It is without a doubt the city's most opulently decorated bridge.

The Pont Alexandre III opened just in time for the Universal Exposition of 1900 together with several structures that still stand today like the Gare d'Orsay, the Petit Palais and the Grand Palais. 

It is also often used as a backdrop for fashion shots.

On each end of the Pont Alexandre III are large gilded statues on 17 meters high granite pillars. Each of the ornaments on the bridge was created by a different artist.

The history of the Musée d'Orsay, of its building is quite unusual. In the centre of Paris on the banks of the Seine, opposite the Tuileries Gardens, the museum was installed in the former Orsay railway station, built for the Universal Exhibition of 1900. So the building itself could be seen as the first "work of art" in the Musee d'Orsay, which displays collections of art from the period 1848 to 1914.

Not the largest cathedral in the world, the Notre-Dame might be the most famous of all cathedrals. The gothic masterpiece is located on the Île de la Cité, a small island in the heart of the city.

For more than 60 years, the Compagnie des Bateaux-Mouches has told a love story to generations of passengers, those who are curious, poets, those who are romantic or in love...

October 20, 2012

Marvellous Gregory

What do the two have in common?

Well, when visiting Mamita Cubana this summer I came down the stairs one morning to find her big boy relaxing in the middle of the living room floor listening to ... Gregory Porter. I had never heard of Gregory Porter before. Usually the music our kids listen to nowadays has very little in common with what I call "rhythm and blues" but I liked what I heard.

So, last night I surprised my hubby by taking him off to see Grammy-nominated Jazz singer Gregory Porter in a little concert hall on the outskirts of Paris. What struck me upon our arrival was the age of the spectators. We were on the younger side....for once! It was wonderful to watch Mr.Porter's performance which was clearly followed by an audience of connaisseurs. From beat one my feet were tapping on the floor thoughout the entire concert. He was extraordinary. Gregory’s powerful yet soothing voice danced wonderfully over ultra smooth instrumentation for a heartwarming rendition of modern jazz. Once you've heard his voice you won't forget it just like you'll never mistaken his dresscode!!!

So thank you budding musician boy for making my evening yesterday!!!! May your musical career be as successful as Gregory Porter's. Here is a song for your Mamita Cubana...

October 19, 2012

Shop till' you drop

One of the great things about living in Paris, is that I get invitations to the French designer brands' sales. Some of them are better than others. I know many women would give a great deal to receive such invitations.

I love to shop but if it is one thing I am NOT - it is a fashion victim. I have my own style - always have had, always will have! Sometimes formal, usually "decontractée" ( I do love that French expression) but as my friends would say always chic.

I can get more excited about my hubby buying me a pink lamp for our dining room than over a designer dress. However, that would NOT include shoes which I admit are my weakest point. Always have been, always will be.

All this to say that I took three different metros to check out the Kenzo personnel sales at Porte de la Champerret in the 17th arrondissement. Part of this "alternative" shopping experience is that I venture to corners of Paris which I would otherwise never discover.

On my various outings I have come across vegetable markets, flower shops, gift shops, foreign supermarkets, ALL of them invariably cheaper than in the 16th arrondisement! I confess I end up making purchases on my way home from these fashion events rather than on the actual personnel sales....this is, of course, with the exception of shoes!!!!

Who can resist a selection of sweets like this?

Hats are my other weakness...

All the bouquets are pink ... which one to choose?

Japanese packaging in PiNk...

... and finally a coffee!

October 15, 2012

Cook, Eat and Run

Living in Paris, how could I NOT enroll in a cooking class once in a while. Usually I am tempted by a sumptuous mille feuille tradition or a succulent chocolate souffle course. However, L'atelier des Chefs opened up a new location in Paris - right next to my favourite shop BHV- last week and my foddie friend signed us up immediately.

The French brothers Nicolas and Francois Bergerault offer a thirty minute hands-on cooking experience, known as "L'en cas" which in English could be translated as "Cook, Eat and Run". It doesn't matter whether you are a complete beginner or a more experienced cook, in 30 minutes sharp they teach you how to prepare and cook a dish that you can serve at your next dinner party and impress your guests not to mention your hubby. I'm not sure my kids are ready to appreciate French cuisine...yet?!

In a convivial and fun environment we learnt how to concoct Asian noodles with crunchy vegetables and roasted prawns. I love cooking but I have kept well away of seafood. Growing up in Switzerland doesn't really incentivate you towards this kind of food. After my initiation with gambas I have served them for dinner in three different versions much to my hubbies' delight who grew up in Napoli.

Click here for the recipe in French: www.atelierdeschefs.fr-nouilles-sautees-aux-legumes-croquants-et-gambas-roties

A kitchen spic and span

The ingredients which need to be chopped

The enemy: las gambas

First time I've ever cooked Asian noodles
(remember I am married to an Italian:
we eat pasta NOT noodles))

Sautéeing veggies

15 minutes down, 15 minutes to go...

the exotic touch

a bit of green as colour contrast

Frying the cooked noodles

... et voilà!

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