May 31, 2013

A busy schedule...

This last month heading towards the school year's end feels a bit like December... and I don't mean weatherwise. Although if someone would light the chimney and serve fondue it would not surprise me at this point.

No, I am talking about our agenda. This month we are doing what everyone imagines us doing all year round, we are running from one event to another... and it's fun.

We are hopping between Avenue Montaigne, the Theatre de Champs Elysees, the Grand Palais, the Italian Embassy, the Galleries Lafayettes Gallery and Roland Garros. I will never dare complain about Paris; meaning the city. It has so much to offer, all you need to do is grab the opportunities!

A RDV with my hubby to attend Igor Stravinsky's "Le Sacre du Printemps" sounded like an exciting idea last night. We sat through the first half where I had to admonish Expat husband twice to put away his blackberry during the performance, a clear sign of his level of interest. Admittedly the performance was unusual. Even I who usually find some sort of novelty inquisitiveness was at a loss. Plain weird. Sorry, Igor.

So we slipped out during the break feeling like to teenagers skipping school and headed to the Grand Palais where the most impressive plant exhibition was celebrating its opening night. Clearly the highlight of the evening was one of the sponsor's stand showing off a magnificent decor adored by mobs of beautiful people. Ah Paris, je t'adore!

May 27, 2013

The Party goes on....

She is growing up fast... I know that is what all mothers think but when you start seeing the first independent steps - and I don't mean the physical ones - it hits hard.

For years birthday parties have been our household's forte. We have been through every theme under the sun. From Nemo to Buzz Lightyear. From Disney Princesses to Hannah Montana. From Football to Dolphins. From Pirates to BFF Sleepovers. I dare say, back in Lugano - where the locals had never heard of themed birthday parties - our kids birthday parties were a yearly highlight for all. The adults got served Pimms and Pina Coladas while the kids were trying to keep up with the games I had prepared for them during weeks beforehand. The house got kitted out with party decorations from top to bottom much to my hubby's dismay and the food was presented in colours and forms to match the selected theme.

This month Expat Girl is celebrating her first double-digit birthday and the theme is One Direction! What else? However, this time it is she who is googling new games, putting together playlists, choosing partyware and planning her party. She keeps on apologizing every time she refuses one of my ideas which makes me smile and whince at the same time. Am I so bossy? I keep on answering: "It's your party, you can decide what you want to do."

I am watching her as she is putting it all together making sure none of her friends get left out in the planning. I can't help feeling nostalgic watching my little girl turning into a young independant miss. It fills me with great joy to see how she is carrying on a tradition that I worked so hard to keep up eventhough it was not part of the country I was raised in.

It will be a great party!

May 26, 2013

L'air du temps

Last week I signed up for a Bastille tour thinking I would not discover much that I had not seen already. After all it has been nearly two years since we've moved to Paris and the "NEW" factor is starting to wear off. 

Oh, was I wrong. Paris never ceases to surprise me. Today I saw a rainbow arching over the Eiffel Tower, just to mention yet another unexpected image. This city is full of secrets.

So, off I went to discover the Bastille district, once a suburb outside Paris, which was called the Faubourg St Antoine. Today it has become a fascinating mixture of old and new. We listened to the story of the Bastille fortress, long gone, but an important part of the history of the city. 

We heard of the elephant Hugo described in Les Miserables, we strolled along the marina and the Canal St Matin, and admired the modern Opera House which has brought new life to this part of Paris since 1989. I actually remember this building being inaugurated. The Bastille area used to be a popular clubbing place when I was young .... oh so many years ago. "Le Balajo" springs to mind as do certain Caribbean night clubs. 

In only two hours, we uncovered the Port de Plaisance, the street markets, many pretty courtyards, and the raised garden walkway “La Promenade Plantée“.

The choice of a b&w collage is due to the fact that the Paris mood is very gray these days given the insisting cold weather conditions. If you can't fight it, you join in!!! Et voilà!

May 25, 2013

Our Norwegian plant is blooming

Keeping my promise to Expat girl that we will visit her best friend in Norway was my priority. Little did I realize that our long weekend spent in a town called Stavanger would turn out to be the best weekend since we've moved to Paris.

After having located Stavanger on a map and googled some important facts - other than that our friends come from Norway's third largest town and counts its official founding year as 1125 - we set off North ready to fight the elements.

Turns out it was sunny at 24°C. Paris eat your heart out!

We strolled through the old town admiring the beautifully kept 18th and 19th century wooden white wooden houses. We ventured into the old canning factory where Expats girl's little friend's great-Grandmother used to work. Starting in the 1880s, industry grew in Stavanger, primarily based on treatment and exports of fish and fish-products.

Today the oil industry is a key industry in the Stavanger region and if you look around it shows. Well-kept houses, clean streets and harbour, big cars and lots of boats. We therefore decided to check out the Norwegian Petroleum Museum at the harbour. We discovered the origins of petrol and admired the development and complexity of oil drilling rigs. Even the teenaged Expat boy had to admit this museum was pretty cool.

We spent the next two days out in the Fjords sailing, kajaking, hiking, and -yes - even swimming. Expat kids adored the Nordic summer cabin life out in the rugged nature. Even I, who prefers a hot Mediterranean beach had a fantastic time, thanks to our Norwegian friends who made us feel very much at home and introduced us to many facets of Norwegian everyday life.

I was moved to see how well our friends had settled back in their homeland and it became clear: this is were they belonged. Seeing them surounded by family, friends and neighbours I realized they had nurtured their plant of friendship while they were away, just like we had over the past months after they had left Paris.

As my friend put it so nicely: "Plants do not grow so easily in Norway but when they have started growing they turn into robust and long-lasting plants!

Best Friends

Meditating or napping?

Happy Camper

Feeling on top of the World

Don't forget to sign the Guestbook in the mailbox

Very friendly neighbour

Fresh mackerel for breakfast

Admiring the sun set at 10:30 pm

May 24, 2013

Family of Four ... will travel ... especially for Chocolate!

“Flowers wilt, jewelry tarnishes, and candles burn out...but chocolate doesn't hang around long enough to get old.”
Sr. Cocoa Loca

Next on our travel plan was a little village called Broc, home to the world-renounded Cailler chocolate factory. On our way back across the Röstigraben from Fribourg to Lugano I decided to surprise the kids with a fun activity. Tucked away in the green hills with cows grazing in the morning mist lay a big white buiding that talked straight to our hearts ... and to our stomachs.

We were not disappointed. We set off to discover the Chocolate path, an interactive audiovisual discovery trail that plunged us into the origins of chocolate and across its history.  We also followed the various phases of the Cailler chocolate production in an entertaining way. We stuck our hands into big bags of roasted cocoa beans and smelt wafts of fresh chocolate. The experience was sensitive, sensual and poetic all at the same time.

Did you know that Marie-Antoinette's (Queen of France) last wish before she was guillotined was to drink a cup of hot chocolate? THAT is a fact that stuck in Expat girls mind!

The best part however was the chocolate degustation at the end of the tour. My children have NEVER been told to eat as much chocolate as they like. Have you? It's an unforgettable experience.

Vintage chocolate bar molds

Roasted cocoa beans from around the world

Swiss milk fresh from the neighbouring farms 

"Branchli" machine

Switzerlands' most famous choclate branches

Every single minute of the day!!!

Here comes the fun part...

 ... caressing our taste buds with the fabulous flavours
of Cailler chocolates as much as we can devour.

May 23, 2013

The family is calling...

“Traveling in the company of those we love is home in motion.”
Leigh Hunt

When family calls, you run. Well, my nephew's confirmation was the excuse but we actually enjoy discovering new places. A couple of months earlier my brother's family had moved from Lausanne down the road - at least that is what it seemd like to us - to Fribourg on the cultural border between German and French Switzerland. For connaisseurs this is called the Röstigraben!

We therefore all hopped into our rented car and crossed the Alps and half of Switzerland to attend a two hour mass sung in Latin! Now, THAT was a first even for my Italian Catholic Expat hubby. The monasteries of Fribourg have always formed a centre of religious culture, which includes architecture, sculpture and painting, and have contributed to the culture of the city. Today, roughly 70% of the population is Roman Catholic a very high percentage for any Swiss city. It has been the seat of the Diocese of Lausanne, Geneva and Fribourg since 1613. Needless to mention that it was the bishop of this diocese who held the confimation service.

These are our souvenirs:

Confirmation in the Latin rite

The river Saane/Sarine flowing through Fribourg

The road of faithful couples and model husbands

The valley floor settled immediately around the Old City.

Along the river Sarine

A feel of countryside

The Old City, one of the best maintained in Switzerland, sits on a small rocky hill above the valley of the Sarine.

The locals

May 22, 2013

Travelling homewards...

“I travel not to go anywhere, but to go. I travel for travel's sake. The great affair is to move.”
Robert Louis Stevenson

Travelling is my favourite pastime. Travelling with kids is even more fun. You need to come up with an alternative programme as well as visiting museums and exhbitions. Planning trips with my kids makes me research that extra step further. Anything from swimming with dolphins to touring a city on a bike are activites that I would not have thought of if it weren't for my kids.

This month has been fun. We travelled through Switzerland and then took off to Norway in search of the sun. We travelled to Lugano first to visit friends and just feel a wee bit of comfy homecoming. We were certainly welcomed as if we were locals. Those four and a half years living in Ticino marked our local community as much as it did us, I dare say.

We went from pouring rain (which we of course had imported from Paris according to our friends) to splendid sunshine that called for a serious hike up Lugano's trademark Monte Bré.

Here are just a few impressions:

A rainy day along the Lugano lake

No passengers today

La Collina d'oro

A soccer field with a view

Walking on the wild side

Ontop of the Monte Bré

The view onto Melide bridge and Monte San Salvatore

View onto Lugano from Monte Bré

Washing tub "al naturale"

Looking towards Italy

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