off to Portugal

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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) –

https://www.theguardian.com/travel/lisbon

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.

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/may/28/spider-man-of-paris-to-get-french-citizenship-after-rescuing-child

two pesto variations

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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.

Ingredients

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.

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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.

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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.

French president asks Facebook to give back to society

Currently on a Facebook apology tour after the personal data of tens of millions of people was harvested and shared with Cambridge Analytica (87 million users), CEO Mark Zuckerberg met with Emmanuel Macron today to discuss a range of issues including social responsibility.

Fresh from meeting with European lawmakers in Brussels, Zuckerberg was raked over the coals. One British MP said the social network had tried to evade responsibility for the impact it was having on society. “I put it to you today, sir, that Facebook is a morality-free zone destructive to a fundamental right of privacy. You aren’t an innocent party wronged by the likes of Cambridge Analytica. Your company is the problem.”

Cambridge Analytica harvested millions of US voters’ Facebook data using a personality quiz app to try to target them with political advertising.

NEW DATA PROTECTION RULES IN EUROPE

The timing of Zuckerberg’s visit to Brussels coincides with Europe’s introduction next week of the world’s most aggressive rules for protecting data privacy. Under the new rules, called the General Data Protection Regulation, to be enacted in exactly two days (on May 25), EU regulators will have the power to fine companies up to 4 percent of their global revenue for violations — a sum equivalent to $1.6 billion in Facebook’s case.

Today in Paris, President Emmanuel Macron warned a gathering of global tech bosses that they cannot ride the coattails of the digital economy without giving back to society. He had invited 60 key figures from the tech world to an event at the Élysée Palace called Tech for Good. Guests included Zuckerberg and heads from Uber, Microsoft, IBM, Samsung, Intel, Palantir, John Kerry for the foundation Carnegie, Jimmy Wales (Wikipedia) and many others.

Macron told them that they could not just be “free riding” without taking into account the common good. He called on them to help improve “social situations, inequalities, climate change.”

In his own words, “It is not possible just to have free-riding on one side, when you make a good business.” He then added “There is no free lunch.” He wants commitments. Like paying taxes, for example. Facebook, along with Google, Apple and Amazon use complex fiscal arrangements to declare their profits in countries with the lowest tax rates (Ireland), even when they are earned elsewhere in the EU.

Other issues discussed were data protection, fighting hate speech and the battle against fake news. The French government is preparing legislation to ban fake news online during election periods, including new rules for websites to provide more transparency about sponsored content.

 

 

a Russian church in Paris, my favorite park, a tea salon and the Courcelles district

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Strolling along the boulevard de Courcelles in Paris’s 8th arrondissement, you are suddenly arrested by an unexpected and spectacular sight. Stopping in your tracks you exclaim, “Oh, my God!” (which is appropriate seeing as it’s a church). Not a church, actually, but a cathedral. The Alexander Nevsky Cathedral is a Russian Orthodox cathedral located at 12 rue Daru (or the foot of rue Pierre Le Grand). Established in 1861, it was the first Russian Orthodox place of worship in France. To visit, the nearest metro station is Ternes.

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Guess who married here in July 1918? Pablo Picasso to Olga Khokhlova. The witnesses were Jean Cocteau, Max Jacob and Guillaume Apollinaire. When visitors to Paris ask me for out-of-the-way places to explore, I always suggest this area.

Cities are composed of villages, really, or pocket neighborhoods and one of my favorites is the district bordering the small and beautiful Parc Monceau. One reason I like it so is because it’s completely off the tourist grid. The people you see are mainly residents or, during the week, people who work there. There are some great shops, restaurants and a market street.

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strolling along the blvd. des Courcelles yesterday in the sunshine

Yesterday I went to buy tea, flowers and macaroons. We’re enjoying perfect weather this weekend in Paris: 20 to 22 degrees with brilliant sunshine. Plus, it’s a 3-day weekend, Monday May 21st being the Christian holy day of Pentecost. (Yup, in this country, Catholics rule!) From the Russian cathedral, I walked up the road to Mariage Frères, the temple of tea located at 260 Faubourg Saint-Honoré (there are other locations dotted around the city.) I bought 100 grams of Marco Polo tea for 9 euros. There’s a restaurant-tea salon inside, but it’s too expensive for my pocketbook.

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Directly across the road is the outstanding La Maison du Chocolat (there are other locations around the city.) If you’re a chocolate lover, these are serious cocoa confections ranging from truffles, ganaches and pralines to éclairs, macaroons and other delights. In the warm months, they make their own sorbets and ice creams. Just up the road is the famous Salle Pleyel concert hall for classical music.

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I know this district well because I worked in it for two years. It was probably one of the worst jobs I have ever had. A small French law firm, the people were execrable. Not only was I harassed weekly by one of the senior partners, I was totally exploited and underpaid. Along with my regular tasks, I was expected to translate long legal documents, but received no status or recognition as a translator. The upside was the Parc Monceau located right beside the building. Small and romantic, it’s my most favorite park. If you come to Paris, you should definitely visit it. Abutting the park are two small museums, the Cernuschi (museum of Asian arts) and the Nissim de Camondo (an elegant Belle Epoque mansion housing a museum with 18th-century French furniture and decorative arts.) During those two years, when I wasn’t sitting on a park bench during my lunch hour, I was visiting these museums or striding vigorously up and down the nearby boulevards.

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The west entrance to the Parc Monceau (metro Courcelles)

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Through the park (which was packed yesterday) and out the other side onto the boulevard Malesherbes to my favorite florist.

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And then back home to make tea, eat a macaroon (or two or three), recline on my chaise longue and admire my bouquet of fragrant freesia and iris.

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Insider shopping tip: if you have cash to splash and are into gorgeous Italian clothes, there’s a small boutique on the boulevard des Courcelles that sells clothes direct from Italy. Expensive, unique and gorgeous, it’s called Cairns Donna. I go there twice a year during the big sales in January and June. 55 bd Courcelles, metro Courcelles. Across the road is the same boutique for men.

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.