Lebanese ice cream on a Saturday afternoon


So I jumped on the subway this Saturday afternoon and headed over to Monique’s place beside the Pompidou Center. She’s off to Miami mid-November to stay with her daughter and two grandchildren, so we had some catching up to do before she leaves. 


In front of the Pompidou Center today

Arriving at the foot of Monique’s street, I spied an ice cream shop that I’ve been hearing a lot about lately. It’s Lebanese and it’s called Bachir.


Later in the afternoon we walked over for some cones. Monique ordered mango ice cream topped with whipped cream, I ordered the Lebanese specialty, Achta, which is rose-flavored milky ice cream made with mastic, rolled in chopped pistachios and topped with real whipped cream. As I ate the slightly chewy ice cream, I wondered what mastic was. It’s a resin, I later learned, from the mastic tree found in Greece and the Mediterranean region. Mastic, apparently, is a synonym for gum. It releases a refreshing, slightly pine or cedar-like flavor.


Monique and I met 19 years ago when we both worked in an American law firm in Paris. Today she runs her own bed and breakfast business in her large apartment situated mere steps from the Pompidou Center in central Paris. If you’re interested in staying there, drop me a line.


the must-see Dior exhibition, closes 7 January 2018


a Dior model, 1957

Oftentimes I find myself craving art (and beauty.) In this world of brutes and atrocity, it’s important to nourish the soul, to uplift and inspire it. Thank goodness for art, artists and art museums. Can you imagine a world without art? It would be a dark and desolate place … a sort of Trumpland, bleak and vacuous.


Dior Haute Couture 2008 – Shot by Patrick Demarchelier

I’ve just seen the Irving Penn photography exhibition at the Grand Palais. Next week I’ll visit the Dior exhibition at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs. There’s also the new Yves Saint Laurent museum to see.


Dior, the Spring-Summer collection, 1948

Growing up, the fashion world was familiar to me. My journalist mother wrote for STYLE, a Maclean Hunter trade publication, where she eventually had her own column. In later years she was fashion editor for a number of Canadian consumer magazines. Yearly, she attended the prêt-à-porter collections in Paris. On occasion I accompanied her. But the best part of having a fashionista mom was visiting the showrooms and ateliers of designers in Montreal and Toronto who received publicity from her double-page fashion features. As a teenager I was gifted with gorgeous outfits and accessories (far too sophisticated for my suburban high school clique!)


I love this. Flannel Dior suit, 1950, photographed by Irving Penn

Christian Dior was more than an artist. He was a postwar fashion visionary and a designer of dreams. He gave back glamour and beauty to women starved of both during the war years under German occupation. He made it possible for women to be fashionable again. Admired by contemporaries such as Balmain and Balenciaga and despised by Chanel, designers everywhere copied him. With his debut haute couture show in 1947, Dior achieved the twin feats of redefining women’s style and re-establishing Paris as the center of the fashion universe.


Dior’s first Peplum in 1947


His “New Look” in 1947 was characterized by cinched waists, full skirts and an extravagant use of fabric that contrasted sharply with the sober styles of the ration era. It was intended as a celebration of femininity and the return of abundance.

Through the 1950s, Dior’s collections followed a particular theme. The Tulip line of 1953 was typified by floaty, floral prints, and two years later the A-Line collection showed a new silhouette whereby the skirt widened out over the hips and legs to resemble a capital A. Dior’s popularity was unrivaled across Europe and the United States.

On October 23, 1957, he died suddenly of a heart attack while on holiday in Italy. Some say it was brought on by choking on a fish bone, others blame a game of cards or a fit of lovemaking. A private plane was sent to Italy to bring the body back to Paris. He was only 52 years old.

His death led to chaos. The closure of the company was considered for a time but ultimately deemed too damaging to the French fashion industry. Instead, the 21-year-old Yves Saint Laurent was promoted to Artistic Director of the house he had joined just two years earlier.


1905 – 1957

Located beside the Louvre on the rue de Rivoli, the Musée des Arts Décoratifs is closed Mondays and open late (until 10 pm) on Thursdays.


violence against women, ELLE magazine, the Weinstein affair

au nom de marie

Front cover of this week’s French ELLE magazine –

(translation) – On August 1, 2003, Marie Trintignant died under the blows of her companion, rock musician Bertrand Cantat. Today she is a symbol. With singular grace, her face has become the face of all women who find themselves victims of men’s’ violence. Her face has become the face of the one hundred and twenty-three women killed by their spouse last year.

Every day, thirty-three women denounce a rape in France. In 2016, 216,000 complaints were filed by harassed or assaulted women. To all of these women, like the actresses against Harvey Weinstein, this takes courage.

Marie Trintignant, we do not forget you. It will take more than the obscene media coverage of Bertrand Cantat (cover of “Inrockuptibles” magazine of October 2017) to extinguish your flame.

“A light here requires a shadow there,” writes Virginia Woolf.

DOMESTIC VIOLENCE, TO BE SILENT IS TO PARTICIPATE. call 3919 (advertising campaign)


Who was Marie Trintignant?
The daughter of France’s famous actor, Jean-Louis Trintignant.


How did she die and how old was she?

She was 41 years old (and the mother of four small children) and she died from a cerebral edema (brain swelling) after being repeatedly punched by her boyfriend Bertrand Cantat, lead singer with the French rock group Noir Désir (Black Desire).


Marie as a teenager

Murder of Marie Trintignant, arrest, and imprisonment
In 2003, Cantat began an affair with French actress Marie Trintignant. On July 26 of that year, Cantat and Trintignant got into a fight in a hotel room in Vilnius, Lithuania, following a dispute over a text message. Seven hours later, Trintignant’s brother called emergency services to go to the couple’s Lithuanian hotel room, as Trintignant had slipped into a deep coma. The postmortem suggested that Cantat had inflicted nineteen blows to Trintignant’s head, causing irreversible brain damage. In court, Cantat claimed he “slapped” Trintignant four times before putting her to bed. He claimed he had flown into a jealous rage after she received a text message from her ex-husband.

In March 2004, Cantat was sentenced by Vilnius Regional Court to eight years in prison for murder, committed with indirect intent. In September 2004 and at the request of his lawyers, Cantat was moved from a Lithuanian prison to a French prison. Cantat served four years of his eight-year sentence in prison. According to French law, after half of a prison sentence has been served, a criminal with good behavior can be released to serve the rest of his sentence on parole.

Cantat was released on parole in October 2007, after serving half of his sentence. His early release aroused the anger of female rights activists and the victim’s parents, who had failed to persuade French President Nicolas Sarkozy and French judges to block his early release.

In September 2003, Cantat’s house was burned down.
In October 2017, French rock music magazine, The Inrockuptibles, glorified Cantat by gracing the cover with his photo while promoting his new album. Indignation swiftly ensued.


Marlene Schiappa, the Secretary of State for Equality between Women and Men, reacted on her Twitter account, “And in the name of what must we endure the promotion of this man who murdered Marie Trintignant with his fists? Do not let anything pass.”

Actor-director Mathieu Kassovitz tweeted. “Very rock and roll your cover. Isn’t that the son of a bitch who killed my friend’s daughter with his fists?”


The Harvey Weinstein debacle is sending wide and wonderful ripples across the ocean towards Europe and beyond. It’s all two decades too late, of course, but better late than never. What can I possibly say that hasn’t already been written, tweeted and decried other than when I came to France from Canada in the early 1990s, I was stunned and appalled by the blatant machismo and sexism that ruled in this country. It needs to be said that France is not and never has been a trailblazer in the feminist department. (Do not confuse emancipation with equality or empowerment.)

Growing up in Canada, I took it for granted that Europe would be as enlightened as Canada in terms of gender equality. I was wrong. I found French women mysteriously meek and French men chauvinistic and entitled. In England the women were always apologizing (why? for existing?) and I was shocked by The Sun’s page 3 girls (A page 3 girl is a woman who models for topless photographs published in UK tabloids, specifically page three of The Sun and The Daily Star.) Page 3 girls still exist in Britain in 2017.

But the most glaring reality, in France specifically, was this: the complete and utter lack of solidarity between women. I didn’t understand – and still don’t – why this was so. (I’m talking about the 1990s; the situation has changed today, but not entirely.)

As I see it, this lack of solidarity and absence of sisterhood insidiously aids and abets the deeply entrenched sexism here. The consequence is that when you do speak out against harassment, you find yourself terribly alone. No-one supports you. (I speak from personal experience.) So it’s true: in order to combat this thing, this sickness, you need to be strong. You need to believe in yourself and have a deep sense of worth. Because you’re taking it on alone.

Sometimes, I have read or heard the following baffling comment from women harassed or molested in the workplace – “I didn’t want to do or say anything that might lead to him losing his job.”

Know this: that man that you’re talking about? He has no compunction about you losing your job. None whatsoever.

Why be polite in the face of lecherous behaviour? Why be a “good girl”? What is a “good girl” anyway?

Here’s another baffling thing – I’ve just read an article in The New York Times in which an actress recounted the day Weinstein led her into a back room and announced that he wanted a massage. Naturally she was stunned because she had shown up on the understanding that she was there for a business meeting. Since when does business mix with massage, especially when you are complete strangers to one another? And especially when you are not a masseuse, but an actress. Now it was my turn to be stunned: she gave him the massage.

Désolée, mais cela me dépasse complètement. I’m trying to imagine myself showing up for a job interview to work in a law firm or an investment bank, and ending up massaging my interviewer. Did I miss something?

Way back in 2013, I wrote a post about the DSK scandal here in France, or rather in New York City. You remember: Dominique Strauss-Kahn – French politician and former managing director of the International Monetary Fund – slated to be the next president of France but who ended up in Rikers Island prison for allegedly assaulting a hotel chambermaid. No-one could have written a better movie script. Here’s the post here –



homage to Nice and the French Riviera


Raoul Dufy, Bay of Angels

Throughout the 1990s, I headed down to Nice often. Nice, and other towns strung along the Côte d’Azur like hedonistic ports of call, was my favorite destination. From Paris, I’d escape on the night train, and it was always thrilling. Another thing I love about Nice is its close proximity to Italy.

It saddens me profoundly to read that since the monstrous July 14, 2016 terrorist attack, hotel reservations, the Nice jazz festival, and other concerts have all been cancelled. I said in an earlier post ‘Do not come to France’, but that was wrong. I was angry. Now I’m saying ‘Do not stay away.’

Below is a travel piece I wrote a decade ago. It is my Nice. For no other reason than I’ve been travelling hither and yon to other cities, I haven’t been back for a decade. I must go back soon, I will go, on my way to Italy.


NICE, a multitude of pleasures

Ahhh, the Côte d’Azur in early June … (July and August are to be avoided. May, early-June, September and October are the best months.) I like the Sofitel Splendid Hotel because of its central location, comfort, and stunning rooftop terrace, a perfect place to enjoy cocktails during aperitif hour, or l’heure de l’apéritif, as the French say. The whole of Nice is spread out below from sea to mountains behind. As twilight descends, the panoramic view becomes bathed in a blue haze signalling that it’s time to descend into the streets and find a good restaurant for dinner. On the roof of this hotel there’s a small pool. When my sister and I were teenagers we used to swim race in it (while my parents sat further away and sipped cocktails.) The pool’s still there and completely unchanged … here it is –


Eclectic, elegant and extraordinary is how I would describe the Windsor Hotel located in the middle of town. Its 60 rooms are decorated with murals or designed individually by modern artists. There’s a lush, tropical, enclosed garden with small swimming pool where you can have your meals, a lounge bar with open fireplace, gym and sauna.  Links to both hotels are at bottom of page.

hotel windsor nice

La Trattoria, located at 37 rue de France at the corner of rue Dalpozzo is a cheerful, casual restaurant serving up large pizzas cooked in an open oven, pasta dishes, seafood, big salads, steaks. Sit on the outdoor terrace or in the spacious, rustic interior.  Nice abounds with pizzerias. There’s a huge Italian influence in this city.

Old town of Nice:


Plunge into the ancient, twisting, bustling streets of the old quarter and drink in the intoxicating atmosphere of this exuberant, southern French city. This is where I spend most of my time wandering happily, getting lost in the maze of ruelles and stopping frequently for an ice-cream, glass of chilled rosé, lunch or espresso, depending on the time of day.

Great lunch spot:

Lou Pilha Leva, 10 rue du Collet on Place Centrale

Stand in line and place your order through a window then carry it to one of the large wooden tables outside. Taste the local specialties – socca (a thin, chick-pea pizza crust); pissaladière (pizza with onions and anchovy topping); salade nicoise and other savoury dishes.lou one

L’Art Gourmand, 21 rue Marché

An establishment worth visiting for its divine home-made ice creams and sorbets offering the following flavours: licorice, violet, rose, fig, melon as well as conventional flavours. Home-made sweets such as marzipan, nougat, chocolate, calissons, sugared rose petals, candied fruits and caramels. Upstairs is a tea and coffee salon.


nice-muse-chagallMarc-Chagall-museumchagall_museum_nice_paradisechagall bis

If you only have time to visit one museum during your stay in Nice, I recommend the dazzling Musée Chagall, located high above the city in the residential district of Cimiez (take bus no.15 direct from the centre of town below – check this bus number.)  I love the name Cimiez which is derived from the French word, cime, which means summit or mountain peak.

This is such a special place.  Marc Chagall’s sumptuous paintings are based on the Old Testament and the depicted theme is entitled The Biblical Message. The canvases are complemented with sculptures, engravings, a tapestry, mosaic and stained glass window. The cool, modern building sits in a peaceful park-like garden containing wild lavender and rosemary bushes, cyprus and olive trees. 

Small snack-bar outside and small gift-shop Inside.  closed Tuesdays


While in Cimiez, there’s also the Musée Matisse to visit.  Located in a 17th-century Genoese villa that houses the personal collection of the painter who settled in Nice in 1917 and died there in 1954. It comprises works from all periods, from the very first paintings made in the 1890’s to the gouache cutouts of the end of his life. There’s a unique collection of drawings and engravings, most of his sculpture and personal possessions.

Bus no. 15, 17, 20, 22 (better double-check these bus numbers)   closed Tuesdays


Train: I used to take the night train from Paris in a First-Class couchette (air-conditioned cabin, free bottles of mineral water and only 4 couchettes to one cabin, as opposed to 6 couchettes in Second-Class), but, sadly, they don’t exist any more.

Night trains used to leave Paris’s Gare de Lyon around 10:30 p.m. and arrive in Nice the following morning around 8:30 a.m.

The SNCF has phased out night trains with sleeping compartments down to the Coast.  Sleeping cars, it seems, have gone out of fashion. Too bad, because I used to love the romanticism of old-fashioned train travel.  

Air France has 15 flights a day from Paris to Nice starting at 7:10 a.m. and ending at 9:10 p.m. The duration of the flight is 1 hour and 20 minutes.  There’s also Easyjet and Ryanair.  And the fast train, the TGV, during the day.  I’ve just looked at the SNCF website.  There are night trains, but they’ve abolished couchettes and sleeping cars.  Instead they offer a reclining seat (très uncomfortable to sleep on.) A one-way ticket costs 44 euros.  Leaves Austerlitz station at 21h22 and arrives next morning in Nice at 08h37.

Excellent day trip from Nice to a market in Italyon Fridays there’s a huge outdoor market in Ventimiglia, Italy, only a 40-minute local train ride from Nice. (It’s very crowded, so keep an eye on your personal possessions.) “Every Friday all year round, French residents and tourists from across the border flock to this popular street market along the lungomare (seafront). They also come for the daily indoor fruit and vegetable market, for which the town is justly famous.”



the legendary YSL


The new Yves Saint Laurent museum has opened in central Paris and I can’t wait to go. For fashion and design students, this place will be a must-see mecca and learning center.

Born on 1 August 1936 in Oran, French Algeria to Charles and Lucienne Saint-Laurent, the young Yves grew up in a villa by the Mediterranean Sea with his two younger sisters. He liked to create intricate paper dolls, and by his early teen years he was designing dresses for his mother and sisters. At 17, he moved to Paris and enrolled at the Chambre Syndicale de la Haute Couture where his designs quickly gained notice. The editor of French Vogue introduced Saint Laurent to Christian Dior, a giant in the fashion world. “Dior fascinated me,” Saint Laurent later recalled. “I couldn’t speak in front of him. He taught me the basis of my art. Whatever was to happen next, I never forgot the years I spent at by his side.” Under Dior’s tutelage, Saint Laurent’s style continued to mature and gain even more notice …

St. Laurent was one of the foremost fashion designers of the 20th century.

Here are some famous quotes from the designer that I’ve translated –

Je ne suis pas un couturier, je suis un artisan, un fabricant de bonheur. (I am not a fashion designer, I am a craftsman, a manufacturer of joy.)

Le noir est mon refuge, le noir est un trait sur la page blanche. (Black is my haven, black is a line on a white page.)

Quand on se sent bien dans un vêtement, tout peut arriver. Un bon vêtement, c’est un passeport pour le bonheur. (When one feels good in a piece of clothing, anything can happen. The right garment is a passport to happiness.)

Dior m’avait appris à aimer autre chose que la mode et le stylisme: la noblesse fondamentale du métier de couturier. (Dior taught me to love something other than fashion and design: the fundamental nobility of the craft of couturier.)

J’ai toujours cru que le style était plus important que la mode. Ils sont rares ceux qui ont imposé leur style, alors que les faiseurs de mode sont si nombreux. (I have always thought that style was more important than fashion. Rare are those who impose their style, whereas fashionmakers are so numerous.)

Dans la haute-couture, il n’y aura plus rien après Coco Chanel et moi. (In the haute couture world, there’ll be nothing after Coco Chanel and me.)


The famous lace dress, 1970. “What is important about a dress is the woman wearing it,” he said.


Iconic photo of “Le Smoking” tuxedo-style pantsuit, shot by Helmut Newton for French Vogue, 1975

“Paris was that mythical place that he wanted to be a part of, the epicentre of French culture.” And if the museum gives an insight into YSL’s work, you can also trace his life in the city too. He had grown up by the sea – in Oran, in then French Algeria – but by his early teens, his sights were firmly set on Paris; his evenings were spent designing dresses for his paper dolls and drawing up orders for the atelier he dreamed of opening on the glittering Place Vendôme.” (Hannah Meltzer, The Telegraph)

“Three letters – YSL – synonymous with luxury and glamour, glimmer in the sunlight above the entrance to a three-storey Second Empire mansion house just across the river from the Eiffel Tower. For almost 30 years, this was the couture house of Yves Saint Laurent, the charismatic prodigy who took Paris by storm in his teens and went on to redefine the way women dressed for decades to come. After almost 18 months of renovations, it is now opening as a museum dedicated to his work.” (Hannah Meltzer, The Telegraph)

Here is the museum link, you can buy advance tickets on-line –


The 1898 Post Hotel, Belgium


Is it possible to fall in love with a hotel (and a city) just by looking at photos?



I took one look at the photos, read the blurbs, and said, “I’m going.”


The truth is, I’ve been wanting to visit Ghent (Belgium) for awhile now. Last year I had booked a trip with the kids. We were going to stay in a hostel. But the weather was bad, so I cancelled.

And now? Forget the hostel, forget the kids … I’m going to this place.

Ghent is called “the best kept secret of Europe.” The hotel is called 1898 The Post because it was built in 1898 and it was a post office. Closed in 2001, the building now hosts a shopping centre and this hotel, right in the center of town.