Thursday, May 31, 2012

Who wants to be a model? World's Largest Fashion Show at Galeries Lafayette!

The World's Largest Fashion Show at Galeries Lafayette in Paris is back! Rather than watch from the sidelines like I did last year, you can join the fun and strut your stuff on the catwalk. Here's how it works:

  • Select a look from one of the four categories: Urban Morning, Tea Party, Cocktail Time, Night Owls.
  • Post your best photo online prior to midnight on August 26. Choose carefully because a professional jury will pre-select models from the website to participate in the final selection on September 10 and 11. From this group, 400 lucky people will walk down the red carpet on September 18, 2012.
  • Professional hairdressers, makeup artists and coaches will ensure that you look spectacular before you experience the thrill a lifetime. No problem if your friends and family aren't in Paris to cheer for you because the event will be broadcast live on the internet.
  • Please don't think that you're too short, fat, old or young to participate - you're not. I saw women and men of all sizes, shapes, colors and ages last year.
  • If you're in Paris and need someone to take your photo, let me know. Even though I'm not brave enough to walk down the red carpet in front of such a huge crowd, I would love to write a post about YOU!

While I had a lot of fun with the wild and crazy strangers I met during the show last year, I truly believe...

that it would be a lot more exciting to be one of the models on the red carpet!

Family event. A father, mother, and child participating in the World's Largest Fashion Show in 2011.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Rue, Faubourg, Boulevard, Bis - Market Walk on rue du Faubourg St. Denis (Part I)

Africa, India, China - it was as if I traveled to the far corners of the earth without leaving the 10th arrondissement this morning. In spite of the tantalizing smells of kebabs, curry and roasting chicken wafting through the air, Françoise Meunier immediately captured our attention by asking if anyone knew the difference between "rue", "faubourg" and "boulevard". As we hemmed and hawed, the guide of the WICE Market Walk explained:

Rue - Designates streets that were within the ancient walls of Paris. The remnants of the old walls, like this one in the 5th arrondissement, are tangible reminders of how much the city has grown since Philippe Auguste fortified Paris at the end of the twelfth century.

Faubourg - Literally "false village", it indicates an area that was outside the original city limits.

Boulevard - Some of the broad boulevards for which Paris is famous date back to the late seventeenth century when they were constructed during the reign of Louis XIV. From 1850-70, Baron Hausmann continued to build a network of wide avenues according to the modernization plan of Paris commissioned by Napoleon III.

After explaining that street numbers in Paris start at Notre Dame, also known as kilometre zero, Françoise explained the meaning of bis when it follows the number in an address.

Bis - If someone tells you to meet them at 40 bis rue de Rivoli, it means that the original building (40 rue de Rivoli) was divided into two smaller buildings and that the additional building required another number. Rather than use the designation 40 1/2, bis is used to mean "encore" or "repeat".

I'll share the addresses of the restaurants and stores that we visited in a future post, but in the meantime, here are a couple of photos of some of the food that we saw during the Market Walk on rue du Faubourg St Denis.

Click here to read about the Market Walk near Les Halles.

According to Françoise, most of the potatoes sold in Paris have already been cleaned with a machine.
It's preferable to buy potatoes with a little dirt on them because they last longer. 
Even though I use pre-cooked beets on a regular basis, many people don't know what they are when they first encounter them at a market or grocery store. They're delicious in salads (beets, goat cheese and walnuts!) and are very healthy for you. Just be sure to remove the peel before using them. It slips right off. 
Françoise said that it's best to buy artichokes with long stems because the stores cut them on a daily basis.
The longer the stem, the fresher the artichoke. 
The cows' feet at a Halal butcher reminded me of the prank calls that my mother used to make to the butcher when she was a child. "Do you have pig's feet?" "Yes, I do." "Wear shoes and no one will notice!" 
The man with amazing mangoes on rue du Faubourg St. Denis. Even though I bought a box to share with Stephane, he'll be very luck if there are any left when he returns from England tomorrow evening. They're easily the best mangoes that I've had outside of Asia.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Roland Garros 2012 - Back in Paris with a "Grand Slam"!

Novak Djokovic playing against Potito Starace in the first round at Roland Garros. Photo credit: Stephane

Stephane and I live within walking distance of Roland Garros, the home of the French Open. His favorite sport, aside from soccer, is tennis. Yet, there we were, fresh off the plane in Paris, without any tickets for the tournament. Standing forlornly outside the stadium on opening day, we wondered what had happened.

Now, I don't want to mention any names, but a certain Swiss man and I exchanged the following emails in February:

MK: [Roland Garros] Tickets went on sale this morning.
Anonymous Swiss man: Yes, but we are not here.
MK: Yes, we are - it's on until the 10th or 12th of June.

In all fairness to Stephane, I should have just gone ahead and booked the tickets because he had a lot on his mind in February. If you're in a similar situation, the good news is that there are still ways to enjoy an afternoon at Roland Garros without purchasing tickets from one of the scalpers lurking outside the stadium.

Novak Djokovic playing at the Philippe Chatrier court at Roland Garros.

Until June 3, two different types of evening tickets are released for online sale one day in advance. The "Outside Courts Ticket" gives access to the outside courts from 3:00 pm, while the "Evening Visitors Pack" allows you to queue for a chance to obtain a seat in one of the three main courts after 5:00 pm, depending on availability. As Stephane and I were feeling lucky, we chose the later option. Arriving shortly before 3:00 on Monday afternoon, we were among the first people in line for a chance to buy tickets. 

Novak Djokovic at Roland Garros. Photo credit: Stephane

In between following the progress of the Djokovic versus Starace match on my phone and exchanging emails with Joseph to find out what was happening on the other courts, Stephane and I debated about whether it would be worth it or not to try to buy tickets for center court to see Djokovic. When the officials opened the queues at 4:30 pm, we jumped in line for center court along with most of the other people because it was only the beginning of the third set and we hoped to catch a few minutes of the match.

Listening to the applause coming from inside the stadium, every second felt like an eternity as we inched our way towards the booth. Finally, tickets in hand, we rushed to center court and waited for a break in Djokovic and Starace's play to take our seats. Phew! We had made it just in time to see the last game and to hear Djokovic promise the enthusiastic crowd that he would only speak French during the next two weeks.

Novac Djokovic at Roland Garros.

Even though I wasn't familiar with the next two players, Ryan Harrison and Gilles Simon, it turned out to be an interesting match because of the reactions of the largely French crowd. Harrison (number 56), a twenty-year old American, electrified the atmosphere when he decisively won the first set against Gilles Simon, a French player who is currently ranked number 11.

The largely French crowd clapping for Gilles Simon.

Unfortunately, Harrison's temper got the better of him when he missed some excellent opportunities in the second set and threw his racket in the direction of a ball-boy. Saying that it had slipped out of his grasp, the American player returned to the court amidst the jeers of the crowd after receiving a warning from the chair. When Simon, whom the crowd affectionately called "Gillelu", threw his racket about thirty minutes later, the crowd gave little notice. There's definitely something to be said about having the home court advantage. 

Ryan Harrison returning to the court after receiving a warning.

Thanks to Twitter, I learned that Jim Courier, Patrick McEnroe and Jay Berger, the head of the United States tennis association, were watching Harrison, one of the players thought to be the future of American tennis. Scanning the crowd, Stephane was able to locate some of the luminaries with his camera.

To purchase Evening Tickets, please click here and follow the link for "Evening Visitors". Another option is to visit the Roland-Garros Ticket Exchange that allows fans to buy and sell their tickets in a legal and protected environment.

Jim Courier and Jay Berger (second row) watching Ryan Harrison. Photo credit: Stephane.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Memorial Day - taking a moment to remember

When I was a child, Memorial Day signified the unofficial start of summer. It was the day my family packed a picnic, piled into the station wagon and drove to a nearby lake to see if the water was warm enough for swimming. We stuffed ourselves on hotdogs heaped high with relish, popped entire deviled eggs in our mouths and had seed spitting contests while crunching on the first watermelon of the year.

For most of my adult life, Memorial Day was just another one of the holidays printed on the American calendar hanging on my wall. Like the 4th of July, Thanksgiving, and St. Patrick's Day, it passed largely unnoticed in whichever foreign country I was living at the time.

I'm saddened to admit that the same thing would have happened today had I not just been in Boston and seen the overwhelming number of American flags planted in the Boston Common. Intended to remind us of the real meaning of Memorial Day, each flag is a sobering reminder of the 33,000 men and women from Massachusetts who lost their lives in battle from the Civil War to the present.

33,000 is a staggering number.

Massachusetts is but one of fifty states.

Please take a moment to remember those Americans who gave their lives in the line of duty. 

"Let no vandalism of avarice or neglect, no ravages of time, testify to the present or the coming generations, that we have forgotten, as a people, the cost of a free and undivided Republic." 
-General John A. Logan, Grand Army of the Republic, May 5, 1868

33,000 Memorial Day flags at the Boston Common

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Sunday's picture and a song - Somebody That I Used to Know

A couple relaxing near the 33,000 Memorial Day flags in the Boston Common.

What's the connection between the pictures and the song? I'm not sure. The photos are just a few of the many that I took while in Boston and the song is one that has been stuck in my mind ever since I first heard it on Friday night. Many thanks to Jamye and Sara for telling me that I should watch the YouTube video of "Somebody That I Used to Know" (Goyte - Cover). It will forever remind me of our evening together at the Tavern on the Water.

Edit: Stéphane and I arrived at Charles de Gaulle Airport a couple of hours ago and had to take an alternate route home when we got to the 16th arrondissement because of all the traffic near Roland Garros. It's sunny in Paris - perfect for the first day of the French Open!

Leonard P. Zakim Bunker Hill Memorial Bridge in Boston
One of the many wedding parties that we saw in the Boston Common on Saturday afternoon.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Clink - locked up at the Liberty Hotel in Boston

The Liberty Hotel, the ultra chic urban retreat that was formerly the historic Charles Street Jail. 

Gazing through the iron bars, I couldn't help but wonder what I had done to end up in the Charles Street Jail. Did the Boston Police Department misinterpret my post about stalking Julia Child? Or, perhaps my crime was related to Shear Madness, the whodunit murder mystery? Whatever the reason, I found myself wearing a black and white striped uniform in a place known affectionately as "Clink" by the other inmates.

Apparently unconcerned by our incarceration, Philippe and Stephane suggested that we share some savory mussels and Faro pasta while we waited for Mike, Peter, Sara and Jon to join us in our cozy nook in the octagonal rotunda.

Even though the prisoners used to be segregated by sex and category of offense when the Charles Street Jail was built in 1851, the warden allowed the convicts to mix freely prior to the Fashionably Late Show last night. Released from the confines of his cell, one of the younger inmates started dancing to the booming music while our group discussed complicated capers involving dog sledding in Lapland, public health, Shazam and Tuscany.

Just as we were starting to acclimate to life in the slammer, the guards released us early for good behavior. Hopefully, we'll find ourselves incarcerated in Clink again. With a range of social events, like Yappier Hour for dogs and their friends, live music, weekly fashion shows and Spring Stretch Saturdays, the Liberty Hotel is a vibrant Beacon Hill destination.

Liberty Hotel
215 Charles Street
Boston, Massachusetts

Vestiges of the original 8 by 10 foot jail cells in Clink.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

A night of "Shear Madness" in Boston!

Unbeknownst to me, Stephane desperately wanted an iPad. So, he did what he always does when he secretly wants a new gadget - he asked me if I wanted one. When I said that I didn't need another technological distraction, Stephane changed tactics and suggested that we give an iPad to Philippe as a graduation gift. Imagine his disappointment when our son responded that he didn't want one either. Darn, foiled at every turn! As it turned out, Philippe declined Stephane's offer because he wanted to give us a present to say "thank you" for the four years that he spent at Boston University. After rubbing our ears in disbelief, we gladly accepted an evening of Shear Madness!

Listed in the Guinness Book of World Records as the longest running non-musical play in the history of American theater, the cast of the hilarious whodunnit murder mystery invites the audience to spot clues, question the suspects and solve the crime. Totally convinced that Tony was guilty of murdering his upstairs neighbor, Stephane was the lone person in the audience to raise his hand when we were asked if we thought that the male hairdresser was the culprit. Peering at Stephane from the stage, Tony expressed his dismay that my Swiss husband would so easily convict him of the crime and delighted us all by saying that he hadn't recognized Stephane at first because he looks so different with his clothes on. It was improvisation at its best!

As the outcome is never the same because it depends on the characters' interactions with the audience, I'm fairly sure that Stephane's next idea will be to take Philippe to see "Dernier Coup de Ciseaux" in Paris. Translated in ten foreign languages and playing in cities around the world including Barcelona, Buenos Aires, Madrid, Rejkavik, Rome, Tel Aviv, Melbourne, Johannesburg and Seoul, there's a good chance that you can join the more than 9.6 million people who have already experienced Shear Madness!

Thanks for an unforgettable evening, Philippe. Laughter helps keep the heart young!

Shear Madness
Charles Playhouse
Boston, MA

Dernier Coup de Ciseaux
36 rue des Mathurins
75008 Paris 8e

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Bon appétit! Stalking Julia Child in Cambridge, Massachusetts

If Julia Child, the chef who changed the way that Americans think about French cooking, was still alive, she would probably wonder why I keep turning up at all of her favorite haunts. After marveling at the gleaming copper pots and pans at E. Dehillerin, her preferred kitchen-equipment store in Paris, I decided that it was time to pay a visit to Savenor's Market, which is where Julia shopped for hard to find ingredients when she returned to the United States from France in 1961.

Julia Child with Jack Savenor on "The French Chef"

As soon as I spied the message, Bon Appetit, scribbled in the cement sidewalk on Kirkland Street, I suspected that I was hot on the beloved chef's trail. Pushing open the glass door, a large black and white photograph of Julia confirmed that I was definitely in the right place. Whether you're searching for homemade duck confit, foie gras, meat, cheese or a whiff of the culinary icon's ghost, the original Savenor's Market in Cambridge is a tantalizing destination. The butchers are friendly and the sandwich that I sampled was delicious. Made with crisped duck confit, pickled root vegetables and spicy aoili, I'm sure that Julia would have approved of "The Toulouse".

Savenor's Market, 92 Kirkland Street, Cambridge, Massachusetts

Following Julia's imaginary footsteps down the street, I found myself in front of 103 Irving, which is where the inspirational chef lived and worked for 40 years. Even though her home was extensively remodeled after she donated her kitchen to the National Museum of American History in Washington DC in 2001, I still wanted to see the place that Julia referred to as "my little house in Cambridge". With over 6,000 square feet of living space on three floors, five bedrooms, four full baths, two half baths and four fireplaces, Zillow reports that it sold for $3,700,000 in 2009.

Living in an area known locally as "professor's row" because of its close proximity to Harvard University, Julia was a born teacher who famously said, "If you're afraid of butter use cream" and "The only time to eat diet food is while you're waiting for the steak to cook.”

Julia, don't be surprised if you see me visting your kitchen in the Smithsonian or taking a cooking class at your house, La Pitchoune, in the South of France. They're next on my list!

Savenor's Market
92 Kirkland Street
Cambridge, MA 02138

Julia Child's house. 103 Irving Street, Cambridge, Massachusetts

Monday, May 21, 2012

Congratulations, Philippe. You're a college graduate!

Philippe with his diploma in hand! Photo credit: Stephane

With brilliant blue skies and an inspirational speech by Eric Schmidt, the executive chairman of Google, the 139th commencement ceremony at Boston University was an emotional experience for the 3,300 graduating seniors, their families and friends.

Even though I don't normally post photos of my children, I'm a proud mom who can't help myself this morning.

Leonard Nimoy, best known as Mr. Spock, received an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree from Boston University. When he spread his fingers into the Vulcan salute that he immortalized on the television series Star Trek, the crowd of 20,000 erupted into cheers. I was momentarily distracted during the subsequent speech by trying to separate my fingers like Mr. Spock. I can do it on the left hand but not the right.
The graduates waving at the crowd in appreciation of all of the support that they received from their families.
Philippe with a happy smile in a sea of red gowns. I teased him that he should have written "I love you, Mom!" on his cap so that he would have been easier to recognize from a distance. Photo credit: Stephane.

Philippe displaying his diploma for his proud parents.

Philippe and Jamye, his girlfriend. Sara and Philippe, my two children, all grown up and ready to tackle the world.

Stephane, Jamye, Philippe and Sara walking towards their future...which just happened to be a bar where we toasted the results of Philippe's hard work! 

Congratulations to the other graduates at Boston University and universities around the country.

To quote Ariane, my friend and fellow mom whose daughter is graduating from Wellesley College next weekend, "Congratulations to you and me for our babies graduation!!! We are done my friend!!! We did a good job." Yes, we did!

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Sunday's picture and a song - graduation!

Today's the big day! To the tune of Pomp and Circumstance, our son will march onto Nickerson Field with his fellow students for Boston University's All-University Commencement that will last about two hours. After that, we'll rush to the Agganis Arena for the College of Communication convocation. Our fingers are crossed that it's Philippe who walks across the stage when his name is called and not someone else because he forgot his graduation gown in the park on Friday. When Philippe went back to get it, all that was left was an empty bag and receipt. If you see someone roaming the streets of Boston in a red gown, there's a good chance that it belongs to Philippe. Let's just hope that they don't decide to take his diploma, too!

If my eyes aren't too blurry to focus the camera, there will be a photo to go along with the song later today. Pomp and Circumstance makes me cry whenever I hear it, especially when it means that one of our children have reached a new stage in their lives.

Congratulations to all of the college graduates in Boston this weekend. There are lots of them!

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Out and About in Boston: Things that made me angry, caught my eye and made me smile

The rooftop deck of the rental apartment where we're hosting a bbq for our children and their friends this evening.

Candles, empty wine and liqueur bottles, dirty dishes covered with crusty food and soiled blankets (and by soiled, I mean soiled!) greeted us when we keyed in the code and walked through the door of our rental apartment in Boston yesterday. Wondering if we had stumbled upon the aftermath of a ceremonial sacrifice, Stephane and I reeled at the sight. After all, we had just spent the last week preparing our house in Annapolis for guests and seeing the condition of the apartment in Beacon Hill was a sobering reminder that not everyone follows my mother's dictum to leave a place in better shape than you found it. After an irate call to the agency, it took the cleaning crew three and a half hours to clear away the debris from our raucous predecessors so that we could finally start our vacation.

The good news is that the apartment is in a prime location right in Beacon Hill. Here's what caught my eye during a morning stroll around the neighborhood.

A clever sign for an antique store. "A Room with a Vieux" (pronounced "view", which means "old" in French").

An artist hard at work on the corner of Beacon and Charles. She made a lot of progress in between the time that I took the first photo at 10:04 am and the second at 12:15 pm.

Wouldn't it be great to work in the Boston Commons on a "barefoot in the grass" kind of day? For some reason, I find it rather difficult to imagine Parisian street musicians taking off their shoes!

If you click on the photo to enlarge it, you'll see a mallard racing against one of the man-powered Swan Boats. It reminded me of the children's story, Make Way for Ducklings, that is set in the park.

Talented musicians with a sense of humor. Their box reads, "To help pay for: student loans, rent, Mac and Cheese, DATES (girls and fruit!), strings, new pets, toilet paper, friends". When I deposited some money in their box and told them that it was the part about the toilet paper that really spoke to my heart, they laughed and said that they had been making good use of the leaves in the park.

Flowers. I don't know what kind.

French fries. I do know what kind - handcut truffle fries with rosemary from Roxie's Gourmet Grilled Cheese legendary foodtruck. Yum!

Lunchtime crowd at one of the many restaurants along Newbury Street.

I LOVE Boston. It's my kind of city!