off to Portugal


In a few days I fly from Paris to Lisbon. I’m excited about travelling to this new and unknown destination (unknown to me, that is.) 

Above is a photo of the new Museum of Art, Architecture and Technology (MAAT).

Stay tuned for a travel report when I return.

If you’re interested, here’s a collection of best travel articles to look at (for Portugal) –

migrant from Mali, hailed a hero in Paris

You’ve probably seen this video because it’s gone viral. The 22 year old Malian named Mamoudou Gassama was walking down a Paris street the other day when he saw a small child dangling from an apartment balcony. Without thinking, he scaled the building and rescued the child. A couple of days later he was received in President Macron’s office. Not to be deported back to Mali (he’s undocumented), but to be granted French citizenship and offered a job with the Paris Fire Department. He was also given an award and a certificate for bravery.

Gassama arrived in France last year after making the dangerous boat crossing to Italy.

But why was the 4 year old boy dangling from the balcony? Because the boy’s father had gone out to do some errands, leaving the child alone in the apartment. He was delayed because he stopped off in a café to play Pokeman Go. The mother wasn’t around. The father of the child was immediately taken into custody for failing to perform his parental obligation. See video here and The Guardian article further below.

two pesto variations


During the summer I buy large bunches of fragrant basil at my local market. And I make my own variation of pesto replacing pine nuts with walnuts and parmesan cheese with pecorino cheese. Once you’ve got all the ingredients assembled, it takes less than 5 minutes to make.


5-6 ounces (2 healthy bunches) of fresh basil leaves
1/2 cup walnuts
1/2 cup grated pecorino cheese
1-2 garlic cloves
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4-1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil

These measurements are completely flexible. Add more or less to your liking.

I can’t get enough of this pink garlic from Provence. I’m never without.

Neuilly August closed signs 2013 037

Whiz all the ingredients in a food processor, toss with cooked al dente pasta, and serve with a cooled, light red like this lovely Saumur from the Loire Valley. It’s that easy.

Note: pesto isn’t just for pasta. Dollop it onto a tomato-mozzarella-onion salad or grilled chicken, bruschetta, pizza, scrambled eggs, etc.

Neuilly August closed signs 2013 035

The second variation of pesto uses pistachios instead of walnuts or pine nuts –

  • Quickly roast (or toast) 100 grams of pistachios in a dry frypan or under the grill.
  • In a blender or food processor mix the pistachios with the leaves of one bouquet of fresh mint, the juice of one lemon, 10 cl olive oil, 50 g of grated parmesan, 3 garlic cloves and 3 tablespoons of water. If too thick, add a bit more water. Salt and pepper.
  • Toss with al dente pasta and top with grated parmesan and lemon zest.  

I’d be inclined to serve this with a fragrant white wine, like a Gewurztraminer that I sampled a few weeks ago; a sweetish, floral varietal grown in the Alsace region of France. Alsatian wines are delightful; lately I’ve been giving them more attention.

a quote from J.R.R. Tolkien

“The world is indeed full of peril, and in it there are many dark places; but still there is much that is fair, and though in all lands love is now mingled with grief, it grows perhaps the greater.”

J.R.R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring

See, I don’t believe this (anymore). When bad stupid people run the world, fairness does not grow the greater, it shrivels. Notice that Tolkien wrote “perhaps”, because he wasn’t entirely sure.

Trump: the human wrecking ball

Trump, the human wrecking ball, swinging back and forth destroying things. And that is fitting because it is what he did in his previous career. He demolished buildings, oftentimes historic and beautiful ones, only to erect garish monoliths in their place (with the name TRUMP stamped all over.)

Fifth Avenue Bonwit Teller: Opulence Lost (from The New York Times) – “To build his signature Trump Tower, he first had to knock down the Bonwit Teller building. Designed in 1929 as the Stewart & Company store, it had an entranceway that was a stupendously luxurious mix of limestone, bronze, platinum and hammered aluminum. The face of the building featured two huge Art Deco friezes that the Metropolitan Museum of Art wanted to preserve. The museum asked Trump to save the sculptures and donate them, and the mogul agreed – as long as the cost of doing so wasn’t too high.”

“But then Trump discovered that taking out the sculptures would delay demolition by two weeks. He wasn’t willing to wait. On his orders, the demolition workers cut up the grillwork with acetylene torches. Then they jackhammered the friezes, dislodged them with crowbars, and pushed the remains inside the building, where they fell to the floor and shattered in a million pieces. The art world was shocked.”

And now, like a puerile, perverse, oversized and orange-haired Dennis the Menace, he has wrecked the Iran deal. Why? Because his intention is to unravel much, if not all, of Barack Obama’s legacy.

Trump’s decision to pull the United States out of the Iran deal could place the lives of Americans – and people around the world – in danger.

Never has the USA had such a visionless, backward-looking, unsophisticated and just plain mean President as Trump, a man utterly unqualified for the job. Listening to Hubert Védrine on the radio yesterday, here’s one thing out of many that he said – “Trump and his cohorts will never forgive Iran for 1979.”

Adviser to Presidents, Védrine was France’s Foreign Minister from 1997 to 2002. Known for his candor, when Védrine speaks, people listen. (Sometimes too candid, what he says is not generally printed in the world press). Here are some other nuggets from yesterday’s radio interview on France Inter

  • This deal illustrates the real world which is the strategic alignment between the American Neoconservatives and Israel’s Likud party, the same doctrine and the same politics which led us into the Iraq war in 2003.
  • The argument of Trump to claim that Iran organizes terrorism today is to exonerate the Sunni forces of terrorism (financed by Saudi Arabia Wahhabism.)
  • The United States, Saudi Arabia and Israel do not want Iran to return to the international game. They want Iran to fall.
  • Trump is a selfish, brutal utilitarian who does not care about the external repercussions of his decisions.

The bottom line is that the American President is being used by nefarious hard-liners, warmongers and ultra-conservative zealots inside and outside of the USA.

He has succeeded in one thing: tarnishing the image of America worldwide. Now, when we see Americans abroad, we sort of feel sorry for them. This was not the case before.

If opposition parties don’t get their acts together, Trump could well serve a second term.

Here are two articles to read: in The Guardian, The Iran deal: how Trump’s actions could flare violence in the Middle East, and in Foreign Policy, Here’s What to Expect Now That Trump has Withdrawn from the Iran Nuclear Deal.

Read them and weep.

Here’s What to Expect Now That Trump Has Withdrawn From the Iran Nuclear Deal

suddenly summer…



The weather was perfect this weekend, especially Saturday. Brilliant sunshine and warm with a cool breeze blowing all day. What a pleasure to escape the congestion of Paris, take the train up to Lille and slow down to the gentler rhythm of the North. Lille is only 20 kilometers (12 miles) from the Belgian border.

It turned out that my six year old godson did not enjoy the new Peter Rabbit movie. “Je n’aime pas les animaux,” he said. (I don’t like animals.) I guess we’ll just have to wait out this new not-liking-animals phase. So off we went in the sunshine to his favorite park, me grateful that he still likes parks.


It was packed. He spent the next few hours playing with the other kids and then we were joined by other members of his family. Back to the house for pizza, cold beer and red velvet cake with cream cheese frosting. Yum.


The next morning, Sunday, was as beautiful as the day before. Too nice to stay indoors! Slinging my camera over my shoulder, I slipped outside and walked briskly to the Sunday morning market in the Wazemmes district. It’s vast, popular and extremely crowded (best to go early.) Using their back door, I ducked into my favorite specialty shop to buy rosewater and orange blossom water (for cakes and desserts) and some halloumi, a briny firm Cypriot cheese, made from a mixture of goat and sheep milk (delicious fried and in salads.) And then, as I headed toward the massive crowd to venture further into the marketplace, it suddenly got very very hot and my left knee started to ache. I decided that I didn’t have the energy to tackle the crowds (plus I hadn’t had anything to eat or drink yet), so I walked back in the heat, careful to stay in the shade.


Gagging for coffee, I burst into the apartment and headed straight for the espresso machine. While I knocked back a double shot, my friends made me a large café au lait and toasted some slices of delicious multigrain bread. I slathered them (the toast, not my friends) with butter. And then the little one appeared, wrapped in an oversized terrycloth bathrobe.

“Tata Juliet,” he said decisively, “Today I want to go to McDonald’s and then to the park.”

“OK,” I said.

“I’ll just do my hair and get dressed. And then we can go.”

Do his hair? In French it’s “je vais me coiffer” which sounds very sophisticated coming out of the mouth of a little boy who has only been six for a week. But then again, his mother is a hairdresser …

Ten minutes later I go into the bathroom to find him standing on a stool in front of the mirror “coiffing” his hair with gel. He’s in fact imitating his two older brothers, aged 15 and 17, who do the same.


I love this gel, he says. Can we take it to the park?
No, we cannot, I say firmly.

So back outside, now it’s broiling hot. Off he marches down the road (like a little Napoleon), me following. Thankfully, McDonald’s is air conditioned. He orders his Happy Meal.

Once seated, I ask ‘Is this your breakfast?’ He nods, his mouth full of hamburger. It seems to be an odd sort of breakfast, but I say nothing.


And then back to the park where he meets his friends and I sit on a bench in the shade of a chestnut tree.

pic Juju parkIMG_8594