July 27, 2014

Time to let go

"Bye, Mummy" and with a kiss he was off to see history in the making. Football history that is. After a stunning World Cup performance the Columbian player Hames, (sorry, that is suppose to be James) Rodriguez was bought up by the Real Madrid soccer club. Today he was officially being presented at the Beranbeu Stadium in front of all his fans. Little did the organizers anticipate that he would fill the stadium!

Of course, my football crazed son did not want to miss the event and I happily agreed to drive him into town. Real Madrid's stadium is known to be safe and family friendly.

However, the closer we got to the stadium, the bigger the crowd grew until we perceived a wave of yellow swamping the stadium premises. All of a sudden, my stomach felt tight and I was thinking to myself: "What the hell am I doing?" All I saw was yellow t-shirts and an endless flow of Colombian supporters heading towards the entrance.

Well, it was too late my baby had disappeard into the crowd and my heart sank as I realized: time had come to let go.

My boy is turning 15 soon, he is a head taller than I, with shoulders wider than his Dad's. Fortunately he has his head screwed on properly and is a mature and responsible boy. Nevertheless, the realization that he is now evolving into a completely independant young person worries me as I know: time has come to start letting go. It hurts deep down but there is nothing I can do about it.

As the saying goes: "Give the ones you love wings to fly, roots to come back and reasons to stay."

Three hours later I returned to pick up a radiant young man in a Real Madrid shirt who's face resembles his Mummy's more than he cares to admit!

July 26, 2014

Feeling loved

Wow! What a reaction! I promise I will never wonder again if anybody is reading my blog. 

Since my last post I have had telephone calls, e-mails, text messages and Whatapps from friends across the globe voicing their concern and wanting to know my state of health.

Well, a big thank you, grazie, merci, danke schön and gracias goes out to all of you who have worried about me. I can reassure you that I am feeling quite alright again.

The first 24 hours after the crash I felt a little shaky, then my body started aching and I am still feeling a little sore all over but some ibuprofen and a good night sleep has set me back on track. 

Today, it seems like a bad dream and I consider myself blessed it wasn't any worse.

The car was towed away at 8:00am sharp the next morning as promised by the Madrid branch of our French insurance company who have been extremly friendly as well as efficient! I do love the Spaniards!

Now I'm dealing with all the paperwork but hey, who's complaining?!?

I now have an excellent excuse to make another appointment with the charmingly efficient (or should I say efficiently charming?) physiotherapist my Spanish friend recommended to me!

July 24, 2014

Driving to my hot yoga class...

So here I am in the hospital. Luckily I have only ever needed to see the inside of this kind of institution twice: to give birth.

This evening, I experienced first hand what it feels like to be hit by an airbag, or should I say by an oncoming car and subsequently by the white pillow!

I now have an inkling of a Formula 1 crash. You can see it coming but it happens so fast your brain can't get the accelorator or the brakes to react fast enough. They say the situation passes before your eyes in slowmotion. I can confim that. As I am pulling out of our driveway - having looked left and right and then left again - I drive ahead only to confront a speeding car heading directly towards my door.


I am whirled through my car, it seems, eventhough I am wearing my seatbelt. I crouch, a protective instinct I guess, and next thing I know the car is still and I have an airbag in my face. Oh shit!

I believe I sat there for a few seconds to register what had happened but it might have been longer. I see people gathering around my car with worried looks and then smell something burnt. Having watched too many action movies I quickly jump out of the car ... just in case it blows up!?!

I hardly have time to think straight and the police have arrived already. Not too friendly I might add. More police arrive. Some angel above sent my Spanish friend who just happened to drive past and stopped to give me moral support and sort out the Macho police. Why is it, men are always taken more seriously when it comes to cars?!?

When asked for an ambulance I accept given that the back of my neck is hurting and I have a headache. Five minutes later I am in the emergency vehicle with a collar around my neck. I do feel a bit like living a TV series.

I cannot see a thing that's going on outside. Being a controlfreak, the fact that I am in complete limbo of what will happen next disturbs me to no end.

Think, girl, think! The car! Where will they tow the car to? Will I have to have it collected and re-towed to a repair garage? Oh gosh, what a hassle. So I call the insurance in FRANCE who promptly put me on hold!!!! I don't believe it!!!

Explaing that I am sitting in an ambulance and want them to react immediately, I am informed they need to find out the procedures for accidents in Spain and put me on hold again! Meanwhile I reach the hospital, have my pressure taken and am wheeled to the waiting room and I am STILL holding!!! Bloody French!!! Finally the confirmation that my car will be towed to the right concessionary tomorrow morning. Well, we'll see about that.

After two x-rays and lots of waiting and a short visit with a very young doctor - whose name not even I can pronounce - I am dismissed with a few contusions. Expecting to take a taxi back, I find my lovely friend waiting for me in the hall to take me home safely. Now I am starting to feel emotional! Mil gracias, mi amigo, de corazòn!

...when all I wanted to do - before the car hit me - was drive to my hot yoga class to relax!!!

July 17, 2014

Shopping for a language

Isn't it lovely to be elven years old and have your whole life ahead of you? Even though you probably don't grasp that concept at that age.

But let me start at the beginning. Expat Girl is entering Secondary School in September and with it, will be able to add a language to her curriculum. English and French are obligatory.

"Mummy, I want to learn Portugese" she proudly announces. "Why Portuguese darling?" I respond, curious to hear her reasoning! "Well, it is the easiest language to learn since I already speak Italian, Spanish and French" she answers.

"Wrong answer, sweetheart. It is too easy. I'll send you off to summer camp in Portugal if you really want to learn it and you'll be babbling along in Portuguese in no-time. Try again!" is my reply. "The future lies in the East, therefore you should learn something like Chinese or Russian."

An inquisitive look tells me either she is wondering which one she should choose OR she has no clue what I am on about! When I was little, Italian was an exotic and popular language to learn, but the world was a great deal smaller in those days. To start with we did not have internet, TV was still in B&W and CNN had not been invented yet!

Thinking of Expat Girl's future and her natural gift for languages, I am pushing her to expand her mind and set her sights further.

So we settle onto the couch - with a laptop on our laps - and start shopping for a language that might tickle her fancy. We try Memrise, a community-driven flashcard site featuring every language under the sun including sign language and have narrowed it down to Russian or Chinese. What a surprise?

The framework shifts after having talked to her aunt who is fluent in Japanese! Her advice is: "Which language do you like listening to? Do you like the sound of Chinese?". Very good point, Auntie!

"Where would you like to spend a year abroad when you're at university?" I am wondering. I spent mine in Italy! Surprise! Surprise!

I know we still have a long way to go before Expat Girl heads off to university, but isn't it lovley to have the whole world in your hands and the opportunity of choosing any language with the prospect of it shaping your future?

Come September, which ever language Expat Girl may choose, I will fully support her choice and as the Japanese proverb goes: The day you decide to do it, is your lucky day!

July 15, 2014

It's a serious matter!

Observing my family-in-law who are visiting us during our holidays, I have taken the opportunity to jot down a few recurring facts that define a typical Southern Italian famiglia:

First and foremost: food is taken very seriously!
- Meatballs and spaghetti DON'T go together! This is a purely American invention.
- Always have fresh coffee boiling on the stove. Grazie mille for inventing Nespresso!
- Make sure you plan your meals ahead, preferably at breakfast or even better the night before during dinner.
- Have at least five different kinds of pasta stocked in the larder. Every pasta has its own sauce to go with it! No, spaghetti still doesn't go with meatballs.
- Be prepared to spend long hours at table.
- When you're NOT eating, be prepared talk about food all the time!
- Fuss over the bambini. Make sure they get enough food. Follow them around the house with the plate - if need be - to make sure they eat enough.
- Prepare the fruit before your meal and stock it in the fridge to serve chilled.
- Stock up on wine and mineral water. Lots of it!

In general:
- Don't plan, improvise!
- Don't improvise when it comes to food, it's a serious matter.
- Forget about any kind of timing. "Andamento lento" is the rule. What are 15 minutes in a lifetime?
- Talk alot and laugh out loud!
- Skip museums and similar visits, food market so much more interesting!!!
- Invite friends over: the more the merrier.

As a general guideline: be nice to people and welcome friends anytime of the day. Even if they are friends of friends, friends of the family or family of friends. Where there is food for 10 there's food for 11.

I've gotta run now, my familgia is sitting downstairs like a pride of lions waiting for their next meal!

July 10, 2014

1 journée 100% Parisienne

I don't usually post infograhics on my blog but I just couldn't resist publishing this visual presentation of Parisians:

July 9, 2014

Oldies but Goodies

It was a blast from the past, literally, when my friend texted me asking if I would join her for a Chicago concert. Wow, memories were flooding my my head and my heart. How many hours did I spend in my little attic room in Zürich as a teenager listening to "If you leave me now" on my record player?

Yes, I am talking 33' LP!
Yes, of course I am in!

The venue was in Madrid's university grounds. Weird, neither of us had ever heard of this site but then again we are far from university age! GPS and off we went...

No queues, what a relief. No security check, what a relief. No youngsters, what a relief?!?

The minute we walked through the gates I felt transported back (at least) 20 years. It was like strolling onto the Berkley campus in the 80's...upps, that makes it at least 30 years!

The open air stage was an old-fashioned size, none of this mega set-up with thousands of light effects, multi-levelled stages and other gimmicks... and there they were... nine guys, four of whom were part of the original American rock band formed in 1967!

My friend and I, each a mojito in hand, spent the next two hours singing, laughing and recalling childhood memories. First kisses, first slow dances, first broken hearts, you name it, Chicago was always there right next to us. Most of all, it reminded me of my parents who were the ones who introduced me to Chicago in the first place. As the song goes: "You're the inspiration!"

July 7, 2014


It was suppose to be a nice romantic dinner to celebrate my birthday. My hubby had reserved our favourite terrasse in the whole wide world. A restaurant full of history and past glamour, a little old-fashioned, a little decadent with ohh-so-many-secrets if the trees could only speak.

We were going with the flow until we reached a barricaded avenue ... and I'm thinking NOT again, this kind of thing happens to me all the time in Paris. However, driving in Madrid with a French license plate the police are quick to let us through once I start speaking French to them and a glint of panic crosses their eyes at the thought of having to speak a foreign language!

What is going on? Weird and wonderful people are crossing our path... until it hits me! In Madrid, summer begins on July 2nd with International Gay Pride Day. THAT's why the American embassy had the rainbow flag hissed below the Stars and Stripes!!!

Anyway, the festivities - where revelers dress in bright colors, catch a buzz, and get their dance on - reach their climax on the Saturday, when the parade vindicating the rights of the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) community attracts more than two million people from all over the world. And WE were stuck in the middle of it.

I am speechless. Now, THIS rarely happens, my husband can vouch for that! We both just stood there admiring the hundreds and thousands of people (mostly men) and my smile kept getting bigger and bigger. This was so much more than what I had bargained for tonight.

We watched the parade floats for over an hour before settling down to dinner where we gazed into each others eyes since - with the raving music hitting us from the floats - we could not hear a word. Thank you, honey, for this unforgettable evening!

July 6, 2014

Waiting for summer to arrive ...

So, I just drove 1300 km from Paris to Madrid with two very unhappy kids in tow. It was cool runnings all the way with little traffic and an overcast sky which is great for driving. I hit cruise control, a feature new to Expat boy who instantly declared: "Well, in that case, with automatic transmission and cruise control even I can drive at 14!". He is not all together wrong but I won't tell him that for the time being!!!

I had planned an overnight stay at San Sebastian, labelled as the pearl of the Northern Spain, famous for La Concha – the city's most popular beach – which lies in the crescent of San Sebastian.

Unfortunately (or fortunately) the Buen Pastor Cathedral was closed already when we arrived but we had a lovely stroll through the old town and enjoyed the layed-back Spanish atmosphere and munched out on some delicious Pintxos. Expat Girl's comment after dinner: "Mummy, the waiters are so friendly here!". "No, my love, it's just that we are too used to French service!". Need I say more?

As we got closer to Madrid I was waiting for the sun to appear. Much to my dispair the temperature remained at 18ºC. What is going on? Madrid should be hot summer sunshine and a guarantee of no rain for two months?

This is what happened next:

The biggest hail storm ever hit the city and for a moment it felt like deepest winter! Next time, instead of my bikini I'll pack the skis!!!

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