Gold star for Mr French!

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Or not. He has been away. First it was Beijing and now Atlanta, eating crab cakes and making my mouth water with jealousy. He came home to Paris for the blink of an eye between the two trips and instead of celebrating our reunion, I was laid up in bed, over thrown by la grippe. It is going around these days and everyone is blaming it our time marching for Charlie Hebdo. Even those who are laid up, but didn’t attend the rally are blaming it on the event. Sorry Charlie.

With a free Saturday on his hands and a sick me at home, Mr French decided to make himself useful and did the grocery shopping, a task I usually fit between lunch breaks when working from home. I had been working in house at an agency all week and in bed in between, so the cupboards we beyond Old Mother Hubbard bare.

Not being a man for doing things like us mere mortals, Mr French treated himself to cart at the Grand Epicerie de Paris. Em and I felt like princesses for the rest of the week, coming home each night to gourmet meals made easy. So what are the rich and famous cooking up at home these days? Probably nothing, but here is what the Grand Epicerie is offering them.

Screen shot 2015-01-30 at 1.50.41 PMWe’ve been starting our mornings with these unctuous delicious sheep’s milk yogurts from the Basque region. We first discovered them while on our annual holiday in Hossegor, so they are not only delicious, but they taste like vacation to us! At the Grand Ep’, you’ll find them in blueberry, chestnut, cherry and fig.

There is a basket full of Jaffa tangerines from Israel for snack time. Having studied the subject extensively, we find this label firm, tangy and practically perfect.

Mr French didn’t forget that Em also love her Pink Lady apples, a cross bred cultivar of Golden Delicious and Lady Williams from Australia, grown in France.

And then there is dinner. Mr French stumbled upon bowls of pre-prepared veggies that I never would have touched because they are expensive and the packaging wasteful and not at all organic. But they made the most delicious meals, so I am going to have to re-think my think. Veggies, nothing but beautifully prepared, carefully selected, raw veggies by C Zon, ready for the wok. 8 minutes, high heat and you are done. They were so incredibly good that I didn’t have remind Em to finish her greens and they even inspired this post. If you are in Paris, looking for a quick gourmet meal to enjoy in your home kitchen, this is the way to go. There are several different combos, so you can mix it up and feel like you’re having something very different every night of the week. Adding a splash of teriyaki sauce, a dash of Mexican seasonings, a splash of paprika and you’ll never get bored. Hopping, happening, and healthy!  Just add a grilled meat if you need meat, et voilà everyone is thrilled.

I think that now would be the appropriate moment to mention that this is not a sponsored post. I have never done a sponsored post and I am not interested in doing a sponsored post. These veggies were paid for, full retail, by Mr French. Now you know just how very, very excited, I want to scream if from the Parisian zinc roof tops, Californians can get about their greens.

Screen shot 2015-01-30 at 2.11.10 PMAnd for the nights I really could not cook, there were prepared meals, proffered by a company called Cooked by. Mr French had gotten some dishes created by a Carribean chef Suzy Plantain. There are no additives, preservatives, or even stabilizers in these meals. The fat count is low, the flavour count high and they were another life saving hit as the flu hit harder.

Screen shot 2015-01-30 at 2.14.26 PMI am a nuke-ophobe. I have never had a microwave before moving into this  flat, and I only own one now by default, so I was particularly thrilled these meals can be heated with a simple bain marie. No nukes!

Finally, la pièce de resistance. Chocolate bars by François Pralus, perhaps the best chocolate bar manufacture in the world today.

Mr French returned this morning and I sense a terrible cold coming on. Something so violent he will have to return to hunter gather mode for just one more appetizing week.

long live the king.

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The 12th day of Christmas is the Epiphany. I don’t know much about the Epiphany and I could Google it if I cared, but all I really care to know I have learned in French bakeries/ The Epiphany has something to do with the 3 Kings, who I had always thought were wise men, but I am sticking with kings in this story because in France we celebrate this holiday with Kings cakes. Cookie Monster can have his way with sawdust disks, me like Kings Cakes.

In Paris the Galette des Rois is a disc of puffed pastry stuffed with almond paste. David Lebovitz claims their easy to make in this blog post. For now, I am taking his word for it. Not because I’m lazy, but because the only thing I like about Parisian Kings cakes are the tiny porcelain prizes hidden inside, and the crown. I love wearing the crown for the evening.

You’d think that would be a major relief to a girl looking to reduce her waste line (that’s a pun,not a typo, for a change), but the crafty guild of Parisian bakers have another Kings cake to tempt aimless souls like my own. In southern France the Galette des Rois, becomes the Couronne des Rois, the Kings’ crowd. A simple brioche, perfumed with orange blossom water and studded with candied fruit is shaped into a crown, baked and dressed in sugar crystal diamonds. A girls best friend indeed!

After 3 months of living without wheat flour, yesterday I could not resist this scrumptious treat and splurged on a little individual bun that was sitting in the window at Eric Kayser, immediately facing the metro exit I use coming home at the end of the day. I didn’t even make it home, sneaking (and savouring!) guilty bites while picking up some fresh fruits and vegetables for the house. It was truly fit for a king.

So divine that I have had an Epiphany of my own; Time to change metro stations!

Je Suis Juif

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Since the Charlie Hebdo massacre I have been reporting on what I see and hear in Paris. Next week I promise to return to more entertaining subjects. Until then, there is so much going on; cyber-attacks, an apology from the US, and the distribution of 5 million copies of Charlie Hebdo as France rallies to support the right to freedom of expression, even if they were never big fans of the publication. It is horrific that journalists and police officers were killed for what they do, but even more unsettling are those who had no choice. Jews who were killed for what they are.

Its not easy being a Jew in France today. In 2006 a young man, Ilan Halimi, was kidnapped, tortured, and murdered because he was Jewish. In 2012 a Jewish school was attacked: 3 children, 1 adult and 3 soldiers died. Last month a couple was robbed in their apartment in Creteil and the wife was raped, because, according to the criminals, they were Jewish. Then there was Hyper Casher…

When I am asked if France is antisemitic, I still answer with an emphatic, “No”. These acts were committed by Extremists. Extremism is not just a French problem. It is a global issue, that has even the Israeli government scrambling to protect its population.

After the attacks, French Prime Minister Manuel Valls declared, “Antisemitism is not an opinion, it is a crime.” and legally that’s true. French law defends free speech until it incites hatred. Saying that the holocaust never happened is illegal and it has been for a very long time. It is legal for the illustrators at Charlie Hebdo to draw an image of Muhammad carrying the “Je Suis Charlie” sign because the message is tolerance. By the same token, comedian Dieudonné’s* joke about wanting to deport a Jew incites hatred and is illegal.

M Valls also declared that without Jews, France would no longer be France. Jews are an integral thread in the cosmopolitan fabric of the country and the population thrives. Last year’s Nobel Prize for literature is a French Jew, Jews are prominent in national politics, and fashion designer John Galliano has been a pariah in the French fashion world since making antisemitic comments. The French government is doing what it can to protect the Jewish population, most recently deploying 10,500 soldiers to protect Jews and their establishments. Therein lies the problem. Many are asking themselves if they want to live in a country where they need military protection. It is scary knowing that not very far from my front door, there are gangs of people who would not mind seeing me dead simply for something I did not choose and can not change.

Locals news has been asking Jews how they feel living in France. The overwhelming consensus is that they are not afraid for their own safety, but they are very worried for their children. Passing armed soldiers, going through a metal detector, and being pat searched to enter a house of prayer is intimidating. Seeing soldiers, their hands on their weapons as parents take their children to school, feels like war. It is heart breaking.

Jews have not gone into hiding. Religious Jews are still on the streets wearing kippot, shopping in kosher markets and heading into synagogues. That is what Jews do, go on with life, defying those who would end it. Hopefully this defiance will remind the world of the words of Franklin D Roosevelt as he united a country shortly before the Second World War: “We have nothing to fear, but fear itself.”

*Dieudonné is a local comedian who is often in trouble with French authorities for his antisemitism. It strikes me as tragically ironic that his name translate to “God Given”

After Charlie

Screen shot 2015-01-14 at 12.21.40 PMAll of France is asking itself a question today. What happens after Charlie?

Before Charlie there was Ahmed. Ahmed Marabet, a handsome Frenchman in his 40s: a policeman who had been passing nearby on bicycle when he saw the terrorists. Ahmed Marabet just happened to be Muslim and he was slaughtered along with everyone else last Wednesday.

Screen shot 2015-01-14 at 12.21.04 PMAfter the massacre, the world cried Je Suis Charlie, in honor of all the victims of the attack. Almost instantly, Muslims started posting Je Suis Ahmed. This was not in denial of the loss to our nation nor was it meant to belittle the attack on French liberty. This was a cry, “I am Muslim. I am not an Extremist terrorist, I am a French(wo)man ready to die for my country.” It was a reminder that we can not confuse Muslims with Extremists who represent a miniscule percentage of those following Islam today.

This weekend Monsieur Marabet’s family held a press conference to deliver the message themselves. They are French. They are also Muslim. Like all French citizens, they believe in Liberté, Fraternité, Egalité. The terrorists, they made clear, were insane and in no way represent Islam or their beliefs.

Screen shot 2015-01-14 at 12.28.06 PMMustapha Ourra, another Muslim, was one of the employees at Charlie Hebdo killed during the massacre and there are no reports on how many of the 10s of 1000s of law enforcement officers who brought an end to our three day nightmare were also Muslim.

The family of the terrorist who attacked Hyper Casher also came out publicly. They apologized profusely. The had been estranged for years because this coward had gotten lost in Extremist hatred. They had not raised him into this insanity and his dogma in no way reflects their beliefs.

One of the heros of the Hyper Casher attacks is a Muslim employee who was able to hide six people, including a 1 month old baby in the freezer. He cut off the lights and the cooling system, ensuring their safety before risking his own life to run to the police. He was a moving target to both the terrorist and the police who suspected him of being the terrorist. Eventually, he was able to advise them on where the hostages were and the store’s layout.

Screen shot 2015-01-14 at 12.21.14 PMSince the murders, several mosques in France have been attacked. This is counterproductive in a country that needs to unify. And it is a tragic example to the rest of the world. Muslims are not the problem. Extremists are the problem and this is true across the globe.

Thankfully, experts are coming on local news shows to defend the Muslim community. We are reminded that the biggest victims of these Extremists are, by far, other Muslims. In France, most Extremist hatred is being taught to disenfranchised men in the prison system. It is being taught by criminals who never studied Islam. They just take what they find online and use the most destructive bits to rally a crowd of violent people, giving them a target for their anger.

Prominent, educated Muslim leaders, like the Imam of Drancy, Hassen Chalghoumi, have been working with the French government to find a solution for years. Screen shot 2015-01-14 at 12.21.21 PMHis projects unite Muslim, Catholic and Jewish leaders across France and have even included a visit to Israel.

As an individual, who is neither a political nor a religious leader, I can not make a significant difference in this convoluted mess. But I am a writer, dedicated to the power of words.

Those animals? Those terrorist who dressed their hatred in the words of the Quran? They were not Muslims. They were Extremists. I am now committed to making this vital distinction every time I speak, write or think about the Islamic faith. Muslims are not Extremists. Extremists are not Muslim. Je Suis Ahmed.

Solidarité

Screen shot 2015-01-12 at 10.31.39 AMThe itinerary for yesterday’s march was no accident. Beginning at th Place de la République, we were marching with ancient Greek republican values to the Place de la Nation. A poignant reminder of who we are and what we believe in as a country, regardless of our race, religion or personal history.

Screen shot 2015-01-12 at 10.19.13 AMWhen we first heard about the march on Wednesday, Mr French mentioned it may be a good idea to attend. I had already attended that evening’s rally, and was happy that we’d be returning to show our support together. But my parents are visiting right now and I was torn about spending time with them or at the march. On Thursday evening I told them that we may possibly want to attend the event and asked if it would interest them. They had been horrified by the murders and were not against the idea, but were not entirely sure either.

Screen shot 2015-01-12 at 10.25.42 AMBy Friday evening we were at home, glued to the television watching French police storm Hyper Casher and it was no longer a question. We’d be attending the march together. The terrorists had attacked our liberty. Now they had hit fraternity and equality, the pillars of French culture.

By now, you may have read that 1.5 million bodies filled the streets of Paris, nearly 4 million people marched the streets of France and an estimated 100,000 showed their support in cities across the globe. More than 40 world leaders attended, including the Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. The president from Mali was there beside the leaders of Great Britain, Spain, Germany and Italy. The democratic world was by our side, acknowledging that not only France, but across the globe, freedom is under attack.

Screen shot 2015-01-12 at 10.20.40 AMWe met for lunch then headed to the metro at 2pm, a full hour before the march. Public transportation had been made free for the day but that is not why the train arrived packed like a sardine can. We waited for a second train, then a third. By the fourth train we decided to go for it. In the metro car, the mood was calm and understanding, everyone cooperating, but I was worried that the quais at Strasbourg Saint Denis would be packed and convinced Mr French we should get off two stops early, at Etienne Marcel.

Screen shot 2015-01-12 at 10.27.46 AMWe stepped out of the metro and were immediately part of the march, standing shoulder to shoulder with thousands heading to the Place de la République as one. We were of every age, color, religion and background. We were immigrants, ancient families, visitors. People came alone, as a family, with friends or co-workers. Normally, it would have been a brisk, 12 minute walk. Yesterday, we were blocked in an surrealistically calm traffic jam of humanity. There was none of the stereotypical French Screen shot 2015-01-12 at 10.20.19 AMpushing, and shoving. Everyone was kind and polite and there in solidarity for the values of the republic. It didn’t matter how long it took, being present was enough. There were no cries or chants. Occasionally crowd would break out into a spontaneous round of applause for a police officer or when emergency vehicles would pass. Egos dissolved, frustration dissipated. After two hours, just 100 metres from our destination, police turned us away. The Place was saturated. Typically there would have been cries of disgust or at the very least, people trying to sneak through. On Sunday, the crowd just held their signs up higher and headed back they way we’d arrived, looking for an alternative route. Screen shot 2015-01-12 at 10.19.43 AMOur group headed into a pastry shop, taking a very welcome break before returning to the streets and finally making it to the Republic.

The sun had set, the march had moved on, yet thousands remained lighting candles, brandishing colorful flags from across the globe and singing the Marseillaise in the name of democracy for all.

Click here if you’d like to more photos of the event on my Facebook. https://www.facebook.com/FindingNoon

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JE SUIS CHARLIE

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There are no words. That is the cliché. But, there have to be words. That is what yesterday’s attack was about. Silencing our words. Now is the time to cry out. Those who believe in the freedom of expression must shout that we will not be silenced. Mosques across France are calling out for prayers of peace.

 

Screen shot 2015-01-08 at 12.46.41 PMThere are so many words about yesterday’s events and the world we have created. But today I want to bring you with me to the Place de la République last night, where 35,000 Parisians gathered to show their profound respect for those assassinated and their beliefs.

 

Getting out of the metro, the quais were disturbingly deserted. I had Screen shot 2015-01-08 at 12.46.49 PMbeen expecting a crowd. There was just the regular scene of commuters. Until I got to the exit, where armored CRS officers were directing everyone to use the exit at the other end of the station. That is where the crowd began. A person jam at the sortie, up the stairs and spilling on to the Place.

 

Screen shot 2015-01-08 at 12.47.00 PMScreen shot 2015-01-08 at 12.48.52 PMScreen shot 2015-01-08 at 12.47.42 PMIt had been very cold earlier in the day, but by evening the weather felt almost mild. The sky was an elegant dove grey with amber lights radiating form the buildings in gentle arcs. At 18h37 the place was packed but not quite a sardine Screen shot 2015-01-08 at 12.50.58 PMtin. I startScreen shot 2015-01-08 at 12.47.27 PMed in the near a kiosk where five people were on chairs, each holding a human sized poster of a black and white portrait of the four victims who had been identified, the fifth person in the middle with a CharlieHedbo sign.Screen shot 2015-01-08 at 12.50.45 PM

Weaving through the crowd, I made my way to the statue in of the Republique. There was a reason we were meeting here and not the Champs de Mars or the Hôtel de Ville, or an other large space in the city. We were not honoring war, or government, we were there in support of republican ideals, the ideals founded in ancient Greece, the French Republic established after the revolution.

It was a muted crowded, gathered for a minute of silence. As 19h approached, it was like having cotton in one’s ears, with only muffled conversations wafting by. Then there was silence. At 19h01 posters were unfurled from the statue and the crowd broke out into applause before shouting “Liberté d’expression”. These were quiet shouts. An oxymoron, and hard to describe, but most people had come to grieve and mourn and show the terrorist we were not terrified.Screen shot 2015-01-08 at 12.49.33 PM

There were women with tears streaming down their faces, a young group holding electric panels spelling out “Not Afraid”. While we could not shout, there was a collective need to share a gesture. A group had brought paper lanterns that they lit and released, golden warmth soaring up to the heavens. People started pulling out their pens, Screen shot 2015-01-08 at 12.51.12 PMholding them in the air, shouting in silence, “We are all Charlie”.

Today there is a call to light a candle in our windows for Charlie Hebdo. There is another gathering at the Place de la République, this time being held by the Mayor of Paris. And just now there was a moment of silence. I am writing this from my local café. The owner turned the lights off and the TV on to news station broadcasting the chimes of Notre Dame, ringing for the full 60 seconds as the chef stopped cooking and we all stood, honoring the words of Charbo, “I’d rather die standing then live on my knees.”

TScreen shot 2015-01-08 at 12.13.27 PMhe names of those who were assassinated yesterday defending our right to freedom of expression.

words

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When I was not writing about Monaco these past few weeks, I was putting together the 7th edition of LUXE Paris. My world has become limited to words. By the time my family comes home at the end of the day, I have a hard time putting two of them together to start a sentence. It has become something of an obsession lately. And not just for me, but the whole country was talking about some choice words last week. The words : Madame le président.

Those were the words used by an Assemblyman when addressing the president of a meeting in the French congress last week and the masculinization of her title was so shocking it resulted in a formal reprimand. A rather serious one that included the loss of 1/4 month’s pay. There were regular blurbs reminding us about the slur on every channel. When I asked Em what the fuss was about, she asked what fuss I was referring to. Mr French had heard the reports, but even he had no idea why it had caused such a scandal. In fact, a lot of native French speakers were at a loss to understand what was so insulting about the term.

It is no exaggeration that French is a tough language to master. Beyond the titles, some nouns mean different things depending on the gender. Un oeuvre is a porfolio of somebody’s work, while une oeuvre is a piece of work, like a painting or sculpture (or do I have that backwards? You see how hard it is?) A memory becomes a memoire.

I was actually quite relieved to learn that I am not the only one who struggles with these little details that seem to make big difference. Not only do I feel like incompetent, but it forced Le Figaro newspaper to print an article in French explaining to the French why Madame le présidente is such a slur. Assemblywomen, it would seem, would like their jobs feminized. Just to make things less clear, female government Ministers do not request the same priveledge, so Ségolene Royal is indeed, Madame le Ministre. This is the formula preferred by the Academie Françaises, the official body whose soul existence is to monitor the French language. Quebec, Belgium and Switzerland beg to differ, asserting that by feminizing career titles we are contributing to equality.

And now Sweden has gotten involved introducing the word hen to replace him or her, in the hopes gender differences disappear for good. An idea that would cause a revolution in France!

On the road

IMG_4290I’ve been rather quiet on the blog lately. Please accept my sincere apologies. I have discovered that it is very difficult to just sit down and write all day. The mind grows numb after 5 hours. At least, my mind does. And I have been writing a lot lately because I was recently selected by AFAR magazine to create a guide to Monaco for their website. I was so flattered! They hire real writers, like Susan Orleans, and they were selecting me. I didn’t hesitate in replying with a loud YES! Typing as loudly as one can through the liquid crystal filter of a computer screen.

IMG_4269 P1080192 P1080179Before the writing, I needed to do some researching. I started immediately, reaching out to the tourist office and the Societe des Bains de Mer, the country’s largest employer that seems to be involved in every aspect of Monaco tourism. Days later, I found myself invited to the inauguration of the Pavillons Monte Carlo, a temporary luxury shopping center that was built as a centerpiece of sustainability. Even more incredible than an invitation to write for AFAR, and the opportunity to visit Monaco, I would be attending an event with SAS Prince Albert II. Totally ridiculous, but I was feeling pretty chuffed about the whole thing.

Then I started to panic about hat to wear. Thanks to the discerning eye of Mr French, I have a great wardrobe, but I was going to be hanging with the rich and famous of the world. I called a friend and she invited me to her new company the ELSS Collection, a company that rents the season’s latest designer fashion to women in my situation. Or women who have packed too lightly for the extravagant meal they have reserved in Paris, or women who are just curious what it feels like to wear high fashion on a low budget. This is starting to sound like a plug for her business, but Susan really is a friend and I genuinely had a great time trying on all the fun fashion at ELSS. I even pick up a dress for the big event and another for dinner later. Fun pieces by Kenzo that I would never buy, because they may be out of fashion in a year, but was thrilled to wear for an evening.

Dress ready, I was on my way. I had a busy day In Monaco, visiting insider haunts, exploring local favorites and doing the tourist thing. Suddenly, it was time to dress. In a moment of extreme anti-climax, it took me two minutes and I was ready to go.

IMG_4271The weather was gorgeous.  It had rained the weekend before, it would rain again in 48 hours, but tonight, the weather gods were in total cooperation with Princely desires for this outdoor event. The fountain was bubbling along joyfully with the British brass band, women were handed a whimsical posey as we arrived. I was thrilled to see that I fit right in with the ritzy crowd. I was a lone, but not at all lonely, there was just too much to see, gorging myself on this internationally flavoured eye candy.

The Prince arrived and it was a fun feeling being on the other side of the red rope, tourists clamouring for a photo op. On our side of the rope, blasé regulars were also shooting away, the man next to me raising his sleeve, the secret spy camera on his watch making that “pshut, pshut” sound, just like in the movies. A surreal moment with James Bond’s Casino de Monte Carlo as a back drop.

There were speeches. Mercifully short and to the point, boasting about the 90 species of trees that had been carefully cultivated to fill this commercial space with oxygen, the LED lights that would be beautiful, but also reduce light pollution and energy consumption. This was my kind of crowd after all! The prince cut the floral (compostable!) ribbon and a cloud of butterflies was released into the air. Breath taking.

Champagne corks popped and I was interested to note that the Monegasque were serving Perrier Jouet. Shockingly, I was not drinking, as I had a full schedule of decadent meals for the weekend and was saving myself. I was not the only teetotaler. Many of us were competing the few glasses of water available on each tray and the house had anticipated we’d be there, serving a delicious cocktail of kiwi, green apple and ginger.

As the evening progressed, we were invited to explore the shops that would fill the space over the next four years. Everything we find in Paris; Saint Laurent, Miu Miu, Balenciaga. Some stunning diamonds caught my eye. Not that I am in the market for diamonds, but I had remembered these diamonds from a Cartier show I had seen at the Grand Palais earlier this year. WOW! It is not every day I see a tiara for sale.

Slowly, my feet came back to earth, landing on the soft ground and carrying me happily back to my hotel for a dinner with a view.

 

 

 

 

Chanel Fashion Week

Screen shot 2014-10-02 at 6.03.32 PMThere is a charming French film called Fauteuils d’Orchestre, which translates to Orchestra Seats, but came out in English as Avenue Montaigne, which is where all the drama unfolds. Impish Cecile de France, perhaps the best named actress in all of filmdom star in this poetic romcom. The movie begins with Cecile’s grandmother explaining she had to live surrounded by luxury, but as she had no money, she chose to work as the dame de piScreen shot 2014-10-02 at 6.03.05 PMpi, or bathroom monitor at the sumptuous Ritz hotel. I think of Mme Pipi often in my life as a journalist, honored to work in extraordinary circumstances, with a privileged peek into another world.

Screen shot 2014-10-02 at 6.02.45 PM Screen shot 2014-10-02 at 6.02.30 PM Screen shot 2014-10-02 at 6.02.18 PM Screen shot 2014-10-02 at 6.02.05 PM Screen shot 2014-10-02 at 6.01.49 PM Screen shot 2014-10-02 at 6.01.35 PM Screen shot 2014-10-02 at 6.01.25 PM Screen shot 2014-10-02 at 6.01.15 PM Screen shot 2014-10-02 at 6.01.04 PM Screen shot 2014-10-02 at 6.00.52 PMTuesday was a particularly spectacular day. Even the weather conspired to ensure absolute perfection as I headed out the door to shoot the crowds sauntering into the Grand Palais for the Chanel show. So much eye candy! As I shot, I thought of the grandmother and started to look around at my colleagues, the other photographers. A bunch of dandies if I ever saw a bunch of dandies. And I thought of my friend Joseph the Butler, a true Beau Brummel. It seems to me that many of the people who work for the rich and famous end up being the true trend setters, guiding them is what’s hot and what really shouldn’t be. The fashion paparazzi are dedicated to following la mode across the globe, developing an educated eye and indubitable style. After all it’s easy to look like a million when you have a million, but these men and women make fabulous happen with little more than their own inspirational creativity. So this season, I turned around from the stars and socialites to shoot them, the guys and gals who really have it going on.

Because the day had made its promises, I left the crowd to visit the opening of the Hokusai exhibition next door. Which was so fun, it deserves a post of its own. And next week I’ll tell you about meeting the Prince….

Becoming French… 6

Screen shot 2014-09-29 at 11.11.47 AMMy accent not withstanding, Monsieur Mustache’s assistant brought out a heavy, canvas bound ledger, dated 1934, the year before the grand in law’s had their first child as French citizens. A loopy scrawl had entered each wedding by date, one after the other for the entire year. Using a clear plastic ruler M Mustache scrolled down page after page aft… arrêt! He had found something. Bringing the awkward witness to the counter, he showed me their names. M et Mme In-Law, French citizens married in the 12th arrondissement before the birth of their daughter who would one day become my mother in-law. The family joke just got funniey! The grand in laws had remarried after being naturalized. The grandmother may have been uneducated and illiterate, but she had been wicked smart, understanding the French and the importance of the paper chase.

A birth certificate does not cite the nationality of the parents, but the marriage certificate made it clear that the two parties were French citizens. I was able to take my files and get official Nationality Certificates for my husband and my girls. Armed with these documents and the paperwork for Nantes, I was ready to submit my dossier.

In a great moment of anti-climax, Madame was not there that Wednesday. I left my file with her colleague, a polish professional, who looked over all the documents and accepted them with a nod. Several months later my husband and I ware called in for an interview.

Like many Parisiennes, Madame is much friendly with men than with women and she was perfectly charming throughout the interview, as I sat there, wanting to do a gloating happy dance to the woman who had informed me I’d never be French. But I didn’t dare, knowing the dossier was still in her hands. The interview was a no brainer old marrieds like ourselves, and we were assured we’d receive confirmation by mail in the weeks to come, but before that Madame asked me a questioned I’d never anticipated and would love to have known was coming so I could have prepared my answer in advance.

– Would to like to françasisé your name?

– França-what?

– Take a French name. It is the law, I must offer you a more French sounding name. It may make your life easier.

She leaned across her desk and whispered the most ironically hypocritical understatement I have ever heard – Sometimes, this country can be difficult for immigrants.

Going from Sylvia to Sylvie hardly sounded like a life changer, so I stayed with what my parents had given me, but had I known, I think I’d be signing off right now as Madame Chanel, that’s Coco to you. Or perhaps I’d have gone with Colette. Marie Antoinette has a certain ring to it…

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