Thursday, 15 October 2009

Climate Change - BAD09

I love jumping on the bandwagon when the ride is for a good cause! Everyone who publishes a blog is encouraged to write about climate change today, so I've got the OECD Twitter team tweeting it up.

Lots of resources over here, from the OECD page on climate change, to the OECD Observer magazine, for whom the SecGen has written that climate change is the biggest threat to economic recovery.

But what made the biggest impression on me lately was a lecture - no, an outer space tour - by Dr Loren Acton, an ex-astronaut and geo-physicist whose specialty is the science of solar flares. He was at the American Church as part of their series on the science/religion dichotomy, but most of his talk was about the wonder of space, enthralling us with slide after video after slide from the space shuttle.

One image of the earth from the shuttle was especially impressive, and Dr Acton said it was frightening to see how very thin the planet's atmosphere is (here are other examples), with almost the delicacy of a bubble. The space between the cloud cover and the edge of the atmosphere is hardly discernible. He followed up with powerful visuals of solar flares and an explanation of the physics of global warming. I bet if he'd passed a hat for money to fight climate change, we would have raised a ton.

So come along for the ride, post on the Blog Action Day and say your bit about climate change.

Sunday, 27 September 2009


Brrrrr, brisk chilly birthday morning, cycling to rue Cler and - watch out, everyone's on wheels! An 8-year-old surfs down the sidewalk like a pro, a couple of 6-year-olds cross the street kicking their trottinettes, there are a couple of little girls on pink plastic bicycles struggling to navigate the market crowd, and of course a toddler in her plastic push-me tricycle. The velibs, strollers and shopping "chariots", we're mixing it all up with pedestrians, dogs and fruit stands.

There is even a circle of poussettes in audience around the organ grinder, parents pulling in to park their toddlers in front of him while he plays La Vie en Rose.

Tribeca's patio heaters are thankfully on so I take a table in the front row, wait for the sun to come around. Oops, here comes the rinse water down the gutter, swirling around our bags on the pavement. After warning the mom next to me, she/Isabelle and her daughter/Tiphaine start chatting, and we discover we both want to master Italian, wish we could afford to buy a big Paris apartment, and love the city but appreciate the country. 

Ended up meeting her distinguished father, and then a handful of her friends who pulled up chairs to describe the Vie en Rose party they'd thrown last night in Versailles - which included a ride out in a pink stretch limo. Sounded like fun but nowhere near as enjoyable as sharing my own birthday fete with my special circle of friends. Yep, a year older, lots of exciting challenges, and I am  grateful-issimmo to have such incredible friends along for the ride. Turn, turn, turn.

Sunday, 13 September 2009

Tourist care & feeding

There's a sort of look that tourists have, that distinguishes them from the locals. It's not the guidebooks or matching red windbreakers or comfy running shoes, but more a sort of self-conscious dis-engagement, looking at the storefronts, glancing at passers-by, discreetly scoping out places to sit or not at Tribeca, hoping not to be noticed. We all know the feeling, I do it myself even in Rome, my foster home.
So when a father and his son sat down at the next table and started nervously translating the menu out loud, it felt callous not to pull them into the comfort of the cafe chatter, even in English. And hey, I was charmed that they couldn't pick out my American accent. And they shared a good story about how once the head of Airbus unexpectedly gave them a personal tour around the Toulouse factory.
They left and I basked in the sun. Although summer is getting blown away by brisk gusts of chilly autumn air, the rays were still July-hot, and families were out for a stroll and a shop. Tribeca's sunny front-line tables were all claimed by 11h, and the terrace was full by noon. That's when I left, wound my bike through crowds, past the cheery organ-grinder and the competing soulful Peruvian pipes, and back to the ACP to train folks to be tour guides at the American Church, for next week's Journee du Patrimoine.
Yes, taking care of the tourists! Wish me good karma when I next hit the Eternal City.

Sunday, 6 September 2009

Really the rentrée

"Always late but worth the wait". Sitting at Tribeca this morning, I kept noticing t-shirts, not so much for the sayings on them as for the fact that so many women wore nothing beneath them. Not just t-shirts, of course, there were also plunging necklines with freckled cleavage, a bouncy black-striped balcony that passed by in profile, pointy bits under a grey knit dress - you get the idea. Guess everyone felt like stretching the summer mood into this final sunny weekend.

Sunny it was, too, bright, colourful - and after the summer calm, noisy! Vendors were clamouring, kids chattering, dogs barking and whining, the accordion-player in front of the fruit stand competing with the guitarist near the cheese shop. And lucky me, the rentrée brought friends to share breakfast this morning: Aldo back from Sardinia, pulling up on his bicycle, elegant even without his usual bow tie; Brendan recuperating from his urban holidays and touring China with son Sean; and Tara in for a week from London, looking graceful and healthy despite her feasting cruise around the Greek islands.

So what's up for the fresh new season? Let's see, besides fixing my kitchen, I aim to formalise my fitness business, get citizenship and buy an apartment, before Christmas. Ambitious? As Tribeca manager, La Chef, said, "it's great to be back in Paris, we're all full of joy and lightness after the holidays. I give it 15 days." Wait and see.

Sunday, 23 August 2009

Summer travels

Lovely weekend down south, thanks to super-TGV. Stayed overnight in charming Narbonne, in an elegant mansion-turned-hotel, got to sit at 11pm on the canal, listening to a jazz band and gulping down a crisp cool panache. For some reason, there was a truck parked nearby with three live bears, each in their own cage, and they were still eating from cake pans when I saw them. Very odd, and a bit sad of course.
Next morning to Perpignan and Mont-Louis, for a couple of days of hiking in the Pyrenees, beautiful fresh air, views across the mountains to Spain. The fruit - peaches and mirabelles incredibly sweet and juicy, why can't we get them like that in Paris?
Then back to work, classes, ACP, the Paris heatwave, and the end of summer in sight. Sigh. Did discover an excellent rosé wine this summer, note this down: Minuty. Cheers!

Sunday, 9 August 2009

The Rev Jesse Jackson

What a privilege this morning to shake hands with Jesse Jackson. He preached at the American Church in Paris, on his way from Chicago to the Ivory Coast. He made an impassioned call for peace in the world, calling himself a “troublemaker for peace”. He says he is asked sometimes whether, with all his political speeches, he ever preaches much anymore. His answer: “I preach the gospel every day – and I use words if I have to!” Nice.

Photos of the event here

Sunday, 2 August 2009


First weekend in August and it’s cold, damp, gray - which translates to very few people at Tribeca this morning apart from a handful of tourists. Amazing how the lack of sunshine mutes the colour in T-shirts, muddies it all down. No action, and just as it seems time to read my new fitness magazine, Randy sits down a couple of tables away. Randy! Of Randy & Jay’s BBQ restaurant on Place Contrescarpe back 20 years ago. We run into each other every few years, and his non-stop adventures make for good entertainment.

This time he ordered me a Calvados, informed me that France 24 is filming Patricia LaPlante’s weekly dinner tonight, gave me the news that Jim Haynes held on to his famous atelier apt in the 14th, and then we talked about how much someone should get paid if their productivity depends on the work of volunteers (e.g. heads of NGOs, charities, churches, community newspapers). Nice blast from the past, and the Calvados added its bit of warmth. Tchin!

Sunday, 26 July 2009


The office calls it home leave, sending me back to where my family lives in the Chicago suburbs. It was a lovely if strange two weeks with siblings and Mom, then back home to a water-damaged kitchen. Grateful that downstairs neighbour Catherine alerted me by email, and to friend Olivia for saving my wine glasses and dishes out of the sagging cupboards.

Now enjoying summer Sunday in the city, tourists galore, yet only Tribeca's front row of tables filled this morning while visitors crowded through rue Cler, dragging carry-ons, consulting guides.

We were entertained by a pretty 3-yr-old girl in pigtails and a pink sundress, insouciantly toting around a grinning wooden pig almost bigger than she was. Plenty of colour on this sunny day - I counted four brilliant purple sundresses, a blazing orange creation, and others in yellow, blue, green. The woman sitting behind me unfolded a portable bicycle, demonstrated it for half a dozen of us, then tucked it back behind her seat. Lots of velibs passed through, as well as one homeless guy whose bike hooked up to a possessions-filled rolling cart, his dog trotting alongside. What is the definition of homeless, anyway?

Leaving the cafe, I stocked up on fruit: sun-ripe tomatoes, sweet cantaloupes 3 for 5 euros, huge deep red cherries, juicy white peaches, golden apricots, yum. But that didn't stop me from testing out Amorino, the brand new Italian gelato parlor on rue Cler. Creamy cherry-vanilla ice cream slopping over the too-tiny cone, I managed not to waste a drop. Home again, home again, jiggety-jig.

Saturday, 9 May 2009

Street hooping

The waiter was particularly grumpy this morning at the cafe after aerobics class. We cheered him up, though, with the hoop I'd brought along, especially when one of the owner's mates volunteered to give it a try. There we were on rue de l'universite, showing off our hip moves with the hula hoop. It was so popular and such a blast to use this morning I've decided to order another one PLUS the training DVD from Hoopgirl. Look for us this summer on the quai!

Sunday, 3 May 2009

Image realities

Yes, well, I always said you have to be careful who you pretend to be. And after all these years, it does look like I have become a petite dame bourgeoise du 7eme! This morning I strolled down rue Cler, post-church in my silk suit and heels, to sit with my usual coffee and croissant and people-watching at Tribeca, cellphone in hand. It was only after, on my way home, that I saw the image. With a newspaper and vegetables stashed in a leather bag slung over my shoulder, I was clutching a bag with pots of basil and parsley in one hand, and a bouquet of flowers in the other, the obligatory baguettes under my arm, looking at windows and stopping to chat first with a friend, then a vendor.

Not that I mind the image - but where will it end? Better polish that longterm vision, would much rather emulate those still-elegant 80-year-olds in the neighbourhood rather than the grey-haired hippie mommas. Ah, oui - meme si au fond je sentirai toujours non-conformiste...

Monday, 13 April 2009

Easter 09

What fun at the American Church Easter morning! The works - trumpets, bells, the choir, big organ sound, magnificent music - Fred Gramann (music director) is a genius. Enjoyed doing the reading, participating in both services - and just a week ago I was jumping up and down waving flags at the US prez. Oh my, what ever happened to the fun I used to have as a hippie anarchist in the 70s?!

Friday, 3 April 2009

Obama 5 months later, Prague

Synchronisticity - here I am in Prague, excited because I've got an invitation to the Obama bash at the Prague Castle on Sunday, hope to make up for missing him at Grant Park in Chicago.

Prague is great, sunny, warm, what a beautiful city in April. And guess what, just tasted a lovely Czech muscat wine, peachy and fresh, yum. Yes, the beer is easy to drink, lots of mellow honey flavour and especially good for post-tourism fatigue. But I may bring home a bottle or two of wine after all...