Beijingers have taken to social media to express support and solidarity with sister city Paris following a blaze which has destroyed much of the roof of the Notre Dame Cathedral. Paris and Beijing have been sister cities since 1997.
I never considered not getting a bike and cycling in Beijing. What I didn’t expect was how enjoyable it would prove. Here’s why:
Articles about how to dress like/talk like/date like a Parisian are a dime-a-dozen, and mostly complete BS, so I was hesitant to take on this subject. Instead of listing what colors to wear and how to get that sexy french girl tousled hair that everybody seems to want, I’ve just described how I actually lived, when I was in Paris. Enjoy!
Our target for the weekend is Château de Chambord. As the most famous and prominent castle in the region, can get very busy in the summer months, but after driving through the thickly wooded domain that surrounds it (and signs alerting us to wild boar and deer that roam about) we find it half-empty in the cold and crisp early December air.
There are about 15 young men in white, swarming over the sand, luring the bull this way and that. Psssst pssst they hiss and the bull swings his huge muscular body around, legs already splayed and hooves gouging the sand as he lurches forward.
Published in לאשה Laisha Magazine, May 2016
Paris and it’s surrounds are perfect for family and couple bicycle rides. Enjoy these three fun routes and explore the City of Lights.
The Palace of Versailles, approximately 20km south-west of Paris is one of the most visited sites in Europe, and is on everybody's to-do list while in the City of Lights. It is an absolutely spectacular place, and one of my favourite sites in the Paris region, but it's not the kind of place you should just pitch up to and wing it.
Due to its size and popularity, a day in Versailles can easily descend into a disaster of long lines, bad timing, long walks in the dust and cancelled trains.
As a tour guide I've spent thousands of hours in the town and estate, and I firmly believe that preparation is the key. So read on, because I'm about to share as much advice as I can.
An island marked by centuries of conflict and bloody rule, a stone’s throw from Italy, ruled by the French and the birthplace of one of the greatest rulers of modern history, Corsica is under an hour’s flight from Nice but it is like no other place on earth.
Watching the Paris Marathon isn't easy, even for a local. I was rushed, unprepared and even had to take a cab at one point. *shame*
Yet loads of people come to Paris from out of town to watch, so with this in mind, I've designed the perfect user-friendly Ultimate Paris Marathon Spectator Route.
Chartres is about 80km south-west of Paris, 1h20 by train. Perfect for a day visit, visitors go to see the UNESCO World Heritage listed Notre Dame de Chartres, arguably the most beautiful Gothic cathedral in France.
Back in May 2015, I spent a day in this beautiful little town with my Dad and his wife. Being the deadline-oriented, timely writer I am, I’ve let nothing get between me and this post.
There’s a world you don’t see. Under your feet. A dark, wet, scurrying world. A muddy, candle-lit, labyrinthine world. Of immeasurable interconnected tunnels, dislodged boulders, vaulting galleries. Private dens, stone-carved temples and sprayed artworks. A world of pit-pat drips and natural springs, sagging electrical wires and bones.
A burrowing, endless honeycomb of a world under the huge, light, airy city you walk through every day. And one evening, this girl fell down the rabbit hole.
Speaking French is not a simple matter of flicking a switch and carrying on with life. It is inextricably related to feelings of legitimacy, falsehood, belonging and alienation. It is associated with anger and frustration, inadequacy, stupidity, and triumph. It is related to who and what I am, my place in the world around me and a constant negotiation and re-negotiation of meaning, intention and power.
Since when is Paris a place that needs to advertise? It’s one of the world’s top tourism destinations. However, 2015 was a shocker of a year for France, and understandably lots of people are have delayed or cancelled their Paris trips.
Here are my top five reasons for why you should come to Paris now.
Published in The Washington Post, January 10 2016
A short train ride from Paris, visitors can enter a serene but spectacular Eden cultivated by the impressionist artist.
I’ve tried to write something about the attacks of November 13th for weeks. It never feels like the right time, or the right way. Still doesn’t. How can one possibly begin to put words to the enormous confusion of horror, pain, death, anger, grief, emotions, news reports, lack of sleep, tears that was it. How can one begin to describe something that you can’t touch, and which changed the very world in which you live, has coloured the way you see everything, and has made everything Before and After?
How can I, one among millions begin to even try? What right do I have to tell this story?
Like pushing magnets together, my words resist one another. The harder I push, the more violently they slip away into a messy pile on the other side of meaning.
Welcome to "Hey You! Yes You", a new series in which I'll introduce you to a new marvelous person that I have encountered here on Earth, each with their own interesting story.
For the first ever post of I have chosen a friend of mine here in Paris, Ellen. Ellen is a seriously talented musician and singer, who has just finished recording a to-be-named new album.
By regularly coaxes the magic of unicorns out of her voice and into our ears on the Paris music scene. By day she works in one of the most beautiful places on earth: The Eiffel Tower. As a tour guide, and has been up the Tower more than a hundred times. Like, way more.
I thought it would be fun to ask her a few questions about what that is like.
Published in PRIMOLife Magazine September 2015
“Turn it! Turn it!”
Oil spits out of the sizzling pan, splattering my white apron and everything in the vicinity. I stand back, wielding shiny kitchen tongs like Steve Irwin fending off a particularly aggressive snake. Amid the encouragement of my companions, I flip the excitable chicken pieces one by one.
I like to cook, but usually without an audience so I can hide the chaos, the panic, the improvising and the fact that I’ve used every single dish in the kitchen. Yet here I am, in the beautiful Parisian home of Paule Caillat, aka, a proper French cook.
Provence has got to be one of the most adorable regions in France.
A land of lavender, vineyards, fruit trees, gently rolling hills and the occasional limestone range... Of ancient village centres, narrow cobblestone streets and carved stone fountains... The true paysage, the authentic rural heart of France which has remained unchanged throughout the centuries in its deeply significant traditions and unrelenting adorableness.
Did I mention lavender?
If I'm honest, the self-conscious provincialism can wear pretty thin, especially in the bigger towns where vendors cackle with delight at the commencement of the tourist season, and even on brand new buildings the paint is artfully weather-worn.
Yves Saint Laurent, Brigitte Bardot, Pablo Picasso, Bernard Buffet…
Wait who? Although his name is little known today, Bernard Buffet was once one of France’s most wealthy and successful artists, critically acclaimed at home and abroad.
So what happened? Due perhaps to his fame and the resentment and jealousy of Picasso, Buffet suffered from a severe critical backlash in the 1960’s. Although he remained well-loved among the “ordinary people”, the art world firmly turned its back on him, right up until his death in 1999. Now more than 15 years later, there is proof that the world is re-discovering Buffet, and liking what it sees.
Every city has its own unwritten rules and quirks and governing principles of which tourists are blissfully ignorant. The bad news is that this can make tourists annoying, even jerkish. The good news is that at least some of this jerkishness could be mitigated by knowing a few, key nuggets of information.
It was Rob Lowe who first introduced me to champagne, way back in the early 90’s. “Actually all champagne is French; it's named after the region. Otherwise it's sparkling white wine,” he smiled knowingly at me as the character Benjamin Kane in Wayne’s World. This guy clearly knew the good things in life, and the allure and prestige of the exotic French drink stayed with me. Since moving to France in 2011, I have certainly quaffed large quantities of the bubbly stuff, but I’ll admit that my knowledge of it has not vastly increased. I knew that it was an appellation d’origine contrôlée product, which means only sparkling white produced within a very strictly defined area could legally be called “champagne”, and that it was good for spraying on your teammates when you had won a Formula One Grand Prix, but that was about it. So you can understand my excitement when almost 20 years after my Wayne’s World initiation, I found myself whizzing on a high speed train towards Rheims, the capital of the Champagne-Ardenne region.
It was the hardness that surprised me. That something so light and fleeting could pack down into a dense lump of ice, hard enough to get a yelp out of whoever you threw it at. I noticed that my gloves were getting wet. The dry-looking snow was deceitful in its appearance, and the coldness seeped into my hands as I eagerly scraped the bonnet of the car, rolling the powder between my hands. I stared into the middle of the ball, past the billion crystals glittering at me, trying to divine some hidden meaning ... as a snowball sailed past my right ear. Maëlstrom was creeping forward into my territory, pushing a wheely bin in front of him as the first line of defence. Laughing, I pegged my newly formed missile at his exposed elbow and completely missed, showering the wall behind him in a spray of white ice. Two seconds later I cracked up again as Joris nailed me on my right side with a well-aimed throw. I couldn't complain, I'd started it.
The iconic sites of France’s first city are familiar to most people but what about the Paris that only the natives know? Here’s our guide to the parts of Paris that the locals would like to keep to themselves.
We looked at each other and cracked up laughing.
"Well who the hell else would be picking up big huge rocks and walking 'round with them?" Teddy Rux demanded in mock consternation, slapping the top of the undulating, salty water to emphasise her point.
The Sydney twang had reached us at the same moment as we saw them, two young Adonises waist deep in the water, passing a very large rock back and forth for no discernible reason.
The rock-bearers drifted closer, unaware that I was fluent in their particular dialect.
It's Christmas time.
In a few days I'll be whizzing towards Brussels, an foreign orphan adopted into my dear friends' family celebrations, but for now I'm on holidays, with nothing to do but savour the achingly beautiful city I now call home.
Within minutes of leaving my building yesterday, I was strolling through the Jardin du Luxembourg. Although it's practically on my doorstep, life and other factors had conspired to keep me out of it for weeks, and I was struck immediately by how much the seasons have changed it. The flowers, usually exploding in a riot of colour from every possible flowerable surface, were gone. And, as put my gloved hands on the brim of a large pot and peered inside, I discovered that they had not simply retreated into their buds for the winter, but had actually been scooped out, soil and all by some unseen hand. Unnaturally geometric patches of lawn remained here and there, evidence of more man-made packing up for winter, and even the ducks who pottered around between the old-fashioned sailboats on the surface of the pond, were gone, replaced by seagulls who circled and cried and made the park feel weirdly coastal. I watched the tourists gamely taking photos of the senat and the pond and felt sorry for them- if only they knew how much they were missing out on! The snow-scenes the tourists and I both crave are yet to come, but at least I will be here long enough to see them out.