Thankful

It shouldn’t be just one day a year that we sit down with those dearest to us and express gratitude for that which is truly important in life. Having each other. Sharing this experience of life. Knowing what a true friend is, and being one. We should express kindness and gratitude daily, through the smallest gestures, even with people we don’t know. After all, kindness is contagious. And I for one am a believer in karma.

I used to write more personally on my blog and will take a moment to share what I am truly grateful for, given that it’s Thanksgiving. I hope you will do the same, today, or whenever you feel the need. Especially when life is dealing you a bad hand, take a look at what IS rather than what ISN’T. You’ll see how blessed you are.

1. My Italian. A man who I can truly rely on and who loves me through all the good moments and the bad.

2. My mom. A strong and loving woman who I admire and look up to and hope one day to have the same relationship with a child of my own.

3. My friends. I often joke that I collect people, but in a way it’s true. There are some of those people that shine more brightly and our bond becomes unbreakable. Whether we live in the same city, or half a world away. These friends are forever.

4. My life. The strength & resolve to create my own life and live it by my own rules, not those set by anyone else.

5. My work. The creative mind and courage to do what I truly love and follow my heart. Designing and writing fill me with SO MUCH, and to be able to share what I create and write, this means everything.

6. My homes. Everyday I wake up and feel blessed to live in Paris, well, almost every day. As tough as the life of an expat can be, I am so much richer for this experience. And calling the Italian Riviera home, my town in Poland, New York City and the Hamptons. I am truly blessed.

7. My travels. One of the best educations is travel. What we experience and learn is something that no one can take away from us and means so much more than any material possessions. At least for me.

I could go on, but it’s soon time to meet some of these friends I mentioned, and spend an evening of gratitude together. Wishing you too, a day filled with thanks.

Yves Saint Laurent in Paris

In early October, the Musée Yves Saint Laurent Paris opened in the 19th century mansion  at 5 Avenue Marceau.  The company headquarters and location of Mr. Saint Laurent’s and his partner Mr. Bergé’s office since 1974, this was also where Yves Saint Laurent would meet his clients for fittings. In 2004, it was transformed into a foundation for public view, with three to four exhibitions annually. It was Pierre Bergé, once the chief executive of Yves Saint Laurent, who decided to dedicate this space to the late designer, and open a museum. Lucky for those of us who admire the work of this visionary man who changed women’s attitudes towards fashion. As Yves Saint Laurent once said, “Fashion fades, style is eternal.”

Not only do we get a glimpse into Yves Saint Laurent’s chic fashion creations, but his design process too.

From collections inspired by artists including Mondrian and Picasso; to faraway travels to Morocco, sub-Saharan Africa, Russia, Spain and Asia; to haute couture gowns, Yves Saint Lauren knew how to dress a woman.

The highlight of the museum is Yves Saint Laurent’s workspace set on the second floor. Here you find his many inspirations as revealed in his collections of books, fabrics and fashion trimmings. A designers paradise!


A dedicated fan of Yves Saint Laurent, my next stop will be the newly opened Musée Yves Saint Laurent Marrakesh, the location of his and Pierre Bergé’s second home and a place close to their hearts. Stay tuned…

Packing for Paris

Several years ago, I left behind my earthly possessions and traveled the world. One of the greatest challenges in this journey of 13 months and 5 continents (and a total of 32 countries) was what to pack? One backpack sized suitcase would carry my new nomadic life. While I prepared this bag with great care, a new freedom greeted me, as I no longer felt encumbered by my possessions. Along the way I discovered how little is actually necessary, be it a week, a month or a year.

In the years that followed, I became an expert at packing and have learned to live out of a carry-on during my frequent jaunts to Italy, Spain or the French countryside. When women ask me what to bring when traveling to my current home of Paris, I am well equipped with a response. Men need not worry too much as jeans and a fitted shirt will suffice in most settings.

Since the majority of travel to Paris takes place during the Spring, Summer and Fall months, less is more. Regardless of how long you’ll be spending in the City of Lights, you don’t need attire for more than a week. After that, unless your hotel has laundry service, it’s time to discover the laverie automatique, otherwise known as the laundromat. It might even be wise to under pack, as Paris’s department stores and limitless boutiques revealing an array of French brands, are worth exploring. Or join me on a fashion tour!

Paris is by all accounts the fashion capital, but unless you’re planning to dine in 5-star settings, you can leave your stilettos at home. Street style takes over the right and left banks, where latest trends mix with vintage classics. There’s an understated elegance pervasive in the Parisian woman’s uniform.

So, what exactly is needed for a week stay? A jacket or coat (depending on the season), a sweater, casual shirts both long and short sleeve and a simple white button-down will have your top half covered. For the bottom, a pair of comfortable jeans, elegant slacks or jeans, a skirt and a little black dress. If it’s summertime, make that two dresses and a pair of shorts. Yes, Parisians do wear shorts, but leave the sweatpants at home.

As for shoes, a pair of trendy sneakers, comfortable walking shoes or boots, and a pair of flats or low heels for the evening. Ballerinas are a favorite of La Parisienne. Bring a bag to carry your daily essentials, sunglasses for the Parisian sun, a clutch for dinners out, a scarf for chilly evenings and an umbrella for rainy days. Finally, a hint of jewelry for the finishing touch. Make sure your separates mix and match well, and pack only what you feel your best in. Confidence is the best accessory!

Now book that ticket, start packing, and head for the fashion show that is Paris. Once you arrive you can read more about Paris on Bonjour Paris, where this article first appeared. Or send me a note and I’ll share my tips!

La vie en français

In my continuing quest to perfect my French (some days I feel complete control and mastery of the language and others, less so), I have discovered a new platform. By connecting you with a local in your select country and city, airXpat assists anyone who is new, in settling in. In addition to language courses, they even help you find an apartment and deal with legal aspects. I know many fellow expats who could profit from these services! Curious to learn more, I connected to the site and quickly found a French teacher. What interested me most is that the lessons would take place around the city, a sort of cultural immersion while conjugating verbs.

At the suggestion of the teacher with whom I’d already had an initial assessment, my first meeting took place at Le Café Marly, set within the Louvre. I don’t think the location can get much more chic or French than this! Before the lesson even began, I was feeling confident and eager to learn. Once we met, I felt very much at ease, sipping café crème and speaking about all my favorite topics of travel, food and culture, in French bien sûr. 

As the hour lesson ended, I was clear on what I needed to do to improve my conversation skills and what I loved most about this city I call home. How could we not speak about our shared experience of living in Paris? I’m already looking forward to our next meeting, a new destination to explore and new vocabulary to learn. On y va!

24 Hours in Paris

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My first encounter with Paris was as a student living in London. Having dreamt about the city of love since hearing my parents recount their romantic interludes, I eagerly boarded the Eurostar, having no idea what to expect, and with only 24 hours to spare. Years later, I don’t remember much of where I wandered or what I tasted, but what remained was the feeling. In that brief encounter I became completely smitten with the City of Lights and somehow knew this was my place on earth, or at least one of them. What I didn’t know is that fate would find me living my own love story many years later.

Now, calling Paris my home for the last seven years, I can well advise visitors on how to spend a day discovering much of what this city has to offer, namely food, fashion and culture. For anyone coming to Paris for a quick jaunt, either alone or with a friend, here is how to spend 24 hours in my favorite city, and feel much like a local. Keep in mind that spring and fall are the most enchanting seasons to discover and fall in love with Paris, though it’s shamelessly charming all year round.

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A real Parisian experience begins with breakfast at one of the best boulangeries in this food haven. A croissant is not simply a croissant until you’ve tasted Du Pain et des Idées. Make that a pain au chocolat. The most flakey and buttery you’ll ever taste. (Keep in mind they are only open on weekdays.) If you prefer a more hearty meal, nearby Holybelly is as good as it gets. From here you can stroll along canal Saint Martin and make your way into the trendy North Marais for a café crème at boutique cum coffee shop The Broken Arm, or the uber cozy Boot Café.

After a stop at Paris’s oldest covered market Marché des Enfants Rouges for a quick stroll or early lunch where you can feast on French, Lebanese, Japanese, African or Italian cuisine, continue along rue Vieille du Temple. You’ll discover all the latest trends while passing the French fashion boutiques lining the street. It is here too that the Hotel Salé sits, home to the Picasso Museum, exhibiting the life and work of this Spanish master with an affinity for France. Recently expanded and re-opened, it’s worth a visit.

If you’re in the mood for classic French fare, head south along the same street until you reach one of Paris’s most famous decades old dining haunts, Robert et Louise. In this charming bistro which maintains the tradition of grilling over an open fire, you can feast on escargots, côte de bœuf, and confit de canard among other dishes.

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Part of Paris’s charm is its tangle of narrow streets, my favorite being in the Marais. Once home to the French aristocracy, this is more recently where the Jewish community settled, making it a vibrant neighborhood even on a Sunday, while the rest of Paris sleeps. Stop by for a chocolate tasting at independent chocolatier Edwart or satisfy your sugar cravings with world famous Pierre Hermé macarons. Don’t forget to try my most recent favorite, the heavenly cakes from Aux Merveilleux de Fred. (Did I mention I have a sweet tooth?) If tea happens to be your beverage of choice, skip the desserts and stop by French tea emporium Marriage Frères for an exotic blend. Don’t leave without heading up the antique stairwell to their Tea Museum.

Next stop is a stroll through nearby Place des Vosges, an elegant historic square once called Place Royale. Writer Victor Hugo’s home, now a free museum, is hidden within the brick facade. You can also find one of Paris’s most elegant tea salons Carette, beneath the regal arches. (I won’t mention how decadent their desserts are.)

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Continue walking towards the river and you’ll discover one of the most picturesque spots in the city, and what causes me time and time again to fall in love with Paris, the island of Île Saint-Louis. This is the place to sit along the banks of the Seine and admire the pink and blue hues of an ever changing sky. Now back to sweets, it is here that the famous (and best) French ice-cream shop Berthillon can be found. Well worth the wait on line!

Crossing Pont Saint-Louis to the second of Paris’s islands, Île de la Cité, you’ll encounter 850+ year old medieval treasure Notre-Dame Cathedral. By courageously climbing 387 steps to the top of the South Tower, you’ll be rewarded with breathtaking views of the city, as well as a few gargoyles.

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You could definitely spend all day walking along Paris’s rues and boulevards, but a faster and equally scenic way to explore Paris is by Vélib’, Paris’s public biking system, or even better, by boat. Just in front of Notre-Dame Cathedral on the south side of the river, jump aboard the Batobus, what can accurately be described as a river shuttle service. With a one-day ticket you can hop on and off as many times as you like, at most of the major sights. Cruise from Hôtel de Ville, office of the mayor, to the world’s largest art collection housed in the Louvre Museum. A stop here will bring you to the well manicured Tuileries Garden where you’ll be in good company with Rodin and Giacometti, in sculpture form that is.

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Continuing along the Seine via Batobus, you’ll enjoy a magnificent view of the Eiffel Tower. Where better to savor a sunset than below (or atop) this cultural icon.

Another sight to behold along the Seine is the Musée d’Orsay. Formerly a train station constructed from 1898 to 1900, this left bank museum houses works from the Impressionist, Post-Impressionist and Art Nouveau movements. Even the facade, one of my favorite Parisian structures, is a work of art.

You can’t visit Paris without getting lost in the rive gauche. Exiting the boat at Saint-Germain-des-Prés will find you in one of Paris’ most charming, albeit touristic neighborhoods. The streets are lined with cafes and restaurants, including two of Paris’s oldest and most well-known, Café de Flore and Les Deux Magots. Good stop for a glass of wine or chocolat chaud. It was at these cafes that the literary elite would often congregate, Hemingway included.

One of many French traditions is the evening apéro, shortened from l’apéritif, a before dinner drink. There are dozens of terraces in Saint-Germain in which to indulge in a glass of red, white or rosé. My terrace of choice for people watching (a favorite Parisian pastime) is Le Bar Du Marché. For dinner, head to neighboring French eateries Semilla and Fish La Boissonnerie, or latest hotspot Freddy’s for more casual dining.

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With an after dinner walk through the city by night, you’ll quickly understand why Paris is so often called the City of Lights, with the 37 bridges illuminated and antique streetlights at almost every corner.

From here you can head to the rooftop of department store Galeries Lafayette for a first class (and free) view of the city (open until 8:30pm). During the summer months the sun sets late into the night, providing the perfect opportunity to head up to the artists’ quarter, Montmartre. Take a metro or uber to Abbesses, walk up the hill (or take the funicular) to the steps of majestic Sacré-Cœur Basilica, and prepare to be dazzled by the twilight views.  Are you in love yet?

summer in the city

For those of us staying in Paris or visiting the City of Lights in August, the month when most Parisians leave town and head to their preferred holiday destinations, where to go to get away from the crowds and relax beneath the late summer sun? Thankfully, I’ve discovered a few favorite spots that I’m happy to share with you.

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The annual Paris Plages along the banks of the Seine is back for its 14th year, with plenty of spots in which to lounge, and with some of the most impressive views in all of Paris. Sand at your feet and rosé in hand, not a bad way to relax. You can also take a dance or tai-chi class or play pétanque. From the Louvre to Pont de Sully, this year it lasts even longer, ending September 4th. 

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One of my favorite discoveries has been the Jardin à l’heure d’été (summer garden) at the Swedish Institute in the Marais. By simply borrowing a book, you sit on the ample lawn all day, lounging in the sun. There’s a cafe for snacks and smoothies, Swedish of course. With activities for kids, there are plenty of toddlers running around. Entrance is at 10 rue Elzévir. Open Wednesdays to Sundays from 12:30 to 7:30 until August 25th.

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If sipping cocktails on a rooftop is your idea of a night well spent, then I’ll meet you at Le Perchoir in the Marais. “Hidden” on the rooftop of department store BHV, this urban escape is the hotspot of the summer, if you don’t mind waiting on line to experience the sunset vista. There are a few locations including the new Le Perchoir de l’est, in the east of Paris. Entrance on 37 rue de la Verrerie. Open from Tuesday to Saturday 8.15pm to 2am, and Wednesdays 9.15pm to 2am well into September.

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A new addition to Paris’ rooftop scene is the recently installed terrace at Galeries Lafayette, where the Cube Bar greets you with a spacious lounge, down tempo tunes and breathtaking views. With an assortment of champagne cocktails and Mediterranean appetizers, it’s the perfect spot to take a shopping break and take in the city. Located on the 7th floor at 40 Boulevard Haussmann, from 10am to 8pm until August 20th.

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For those in Paris, enjoy your summer in the city!

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