Los Angeles

My Swedish friend is going to Los Angeles and I’m jealous. Maybe next year I’ll go. I have a hankering for the Pacific Coast, for edgy innovative California on the edge of the map. I want to cycle the Santa Monica Strand and explore parts of the city that I haven’t explored yet, like Topanga. I want to cruise the coast along the PCH up to Santa Barbara where my cousins live. I want to visit Nepenthe in Big Sur, the dramatic cliff restaurant overlooking redwoods and the ocean below. I want to return to Napa (or was it Sonoma?) where my Californian friend, Lori, took me to sample “cabs” and pinot noir. I want to visit Sequoia or Yosemite. I want to stargaze at Griffith Park Observatory, then drive through the desert to float in a Palm Springs swimming pool, a large cocktail in hand. I want to visit those mid-century houses in Palm Springs, Frank Sinatra’s and Cary Grant’s included. So many things to see and do in America’s third-largest state, but, alas, so little time in which to see and do all. I’d like to live somewhere in CA, away from wildfires and Republicans, for six months to a year and explore all that CA has to offer.

This Pacific state is a hot destination for residents of France.

I’ve sent my friend these two visually awesome videos –


If you can’t expand the video below to full screen, go to VIMEO and type in Ian Wood, Los Angeles. This drone video is gorgeous; you need to see it on full screen.



The Ile Saint Louis, Batobus and the river

The Ile Saint-Louis is a small, natural island located in the middle of the river Seine. To get there by metro, the closest stop is Cité. For a river cruise I recommend the Batobus because you can hop on and off at one of the 8 different riverside stops. It’s cheaper and more flexible than the Bateaux Mouches excursion boats. Photos and ticket prices are in one of the photos below.These photographs were taken during a heatwave in August 2013. As for their display, please click on each one to enlarge it.


Berthillon ice cream on the Ile Saint Louis

I know that my preceding post is about dieting, but because it is hot and midsummer I wanted to repost this favorite 2015 blog post.

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Yesterday was hot. Very hot. I took the day off work, not because it was hot but because everyone takes time off during July and August. After my Pilates class, I headed to the river and to Berthillon glacier (ice creams and sorbets). It’s located on the small island of Ile Saint-Louis in the middle of the River Seine.

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What’s funny is that the original Berthillon ice cream parlor is closed during July and August!  Isn’t that a hoot?  Luckily, the Ile Saint-Louis is served with a half-dozen outlets.

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You either line up and purchase your ice cream as take-out or you sit inside and have it served to you. It was so hot I had to sit down inside. I ordered a chilled apple juice and perused the list of a dozen or so flavors ranging from fig to litchee to mandarin orange. Sorbet, or sherbet in English, has 30% less calories.  I ordered a duo of mango and cherry sorbets.

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Isn’t this gorgeous? Eating Berthillon is an event because the flavor is so intense and the taste so startling, you swear you’re eating a real mango and real cherries. Once the fruit sorbet eaten, I ordered a single scoop of réglisse. Never having tasted licorice ice cream before, I was curious. (I thought it would be black – photo below).  Again, the flavor bursts in your mouth. One scoop is 3 euros 50, two scoops 6 euros 50. For take-out, one scoop is 2 euros 50, two scoops 4 euros.  

I like that the word “flavor” in French is parfum. I like that metal and not plastic spoons are used. I like the edible wafer cup that the sorbet is served in, called a coupelle en gaufre, and I like that they offer a pitcher of water.

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Afterwards I strolled the streets of the Ile Saint Louis then made my way down to the river.  A hot wind was blowing.  …….to be continued.

who wants to lose 30 pounds in 12 weeks?

Liezl Jayne is her name. She’s young, South African and she has produced this terrific video that I happened to stumble across the other day. Why do I love it so? Not only are the recipes simple, healthy and realistic … and tasty! … they’re the sort of thing I like to eat.  Her meals and smoothies can be quickly whipped up with no fuss or added expense. I don’t want to lose 30 pounds, but 15 to 20 pounds would do the trick nicely.

What I find really appealing is her WEIGHT LOSS MEAL PREP FOR THE WEEK, a meal plan designed for women of all ages. Because I work during the week and come home at 7 pm, I like the idea of preparing my dinners in advance and storing them in individual containers in the fridge.

A week later: every morning before heading out I’ve been making Liezl’s breakfast smoothie. I love it. It’s a meal all in one and it tides you over until noon. My espresso is in there as well as the oatmeal. I use only one banana and add only one teaspoon of cocoa instead of the two that she recommends. Go to the video and see how it’s done. Oh, and be careful not to add too much water because you want this smoothie to be thick and creamy.

Here’s the video and below that her website with the meal prep recipes. Enjoy!


The Secret Garden

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Sssshhhhh…..this is my most favourite spot in Paris. Frequented largely by Parisians, I don’t want it over-run with tourists. So if you promise to keep this address to yourself, I’ll tell you about it.

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It’s called the garden of the Royal Palace – le jardin du Palais Royal – and it’s a sublime and sheltered retreat tucked behind a courtyard near the Louvre. The long, rectangular garden is hemmed in by elegant arcades that border its perimeter. Exclusive boutiques are to be found in 18th-century shopping galleries. As well as two or three restaurants. And other treats.

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I love the faded grandeur of the buildings. The author, Colette, lived in one of these upper apartments overlooking the garden.

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You could easily spend half a day here. There’s a beautiful fountain in the middle. And tree-lined allées that provide shade.

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There are little squares of rose garden in which to read a book, contemplate life, people-watch … or write that memoir!

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Where young princes once strolled, today local boys play soccer.

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At the far end near the entrance is an inner courtyard containing the controversial columns designed by artist, Daniel Buren.

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I like the interplay between modern and classical.

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I love the jardin du Palais Royal. It’s French, it’s fabulous, it’s forever. Pour toujours.

And remember … c’est un secret.

the brand new Giacometti Institute in Paris

The world’s first museum dedicated to the Swiss artist Alberto Giacometti has opened to the public. The private Art Nouveau and Art Deco mansion located in Paris’s 14th arrondissement is now a permanent home for the collection of the artist’s work ranging from 350 sculptures, 90 paintings and 5,000 drawings, lithographies and etchings. Archives, including his correspondence and photographs, are also on display.


Giacometti is best known for his elongated, withered representations of the human form, including his 1960 sculpture Walking Man which in 2010 broke the record at auction at $104.3 million. After experimenting with Cubism and Surrealism, Giacometti broke from Surrealism and began his radical revision of the representational tradition in sculpture. Giacometti’s severe figures explored the psyche and the charged space occupied by a single person. Linked to Jean-Paul Sartre and existentialism, they are seen as metaphors for the postwar experience of doubt and alienation.

The Montparnasse district (14th arrondissement) is where Alberto Giacometti (1901-1966) lived and worked for forty years. The new institute presents a reconstruction of the artist’s studio. The intimacy of the place will be recreated through a system of glazing, lighting and bleachers allowing visitors to immerse themselves in what was the creative setting of the artist.


summer destination, Atlantic Coast of France

I stopped going to the Côte d’Azur (the French Riviera) about a decade and a half ago. Too crowded, too expensive, too built-up. But throughout the 1990s I went regularly, stealing away on the night train that departed from the Gare d’Austerlitz. My destination was always Nice (I adored that city), but I explored other towns strung like pearls along the coast: Cannes, Juan-les-Pins, Antibes, Cap Ferrat, and Menton near the Italian border. There was something romantic, dangerous and thrilling about those night trains. You never knew who you were going to meet in the corridors at midnight; you never knew with whom you were going to share your sleeping compartment (six bunks, called couchettes, to a compartment; you had to climb up a little ladder to get to the top bunk.) It seems funny now, the idea of sleeping with complete strangers in a stuffy train compartment. Towards the late 1990s the train company had the good idea to create “women’s only compartments” which locked from the inside.

But the Riviera lost its allure for me in the 2000s. The place had become over-run with tourists and both crime and prices increased drastically. Modernization attempts killed the sleepy charm that had once lured me there. So I switched coasts and discovered Arcachon, Cap Ferret (not to be confused with Cap Ferrat), La Rochelle and the Ile de Ré, all sparkling summer destinations on France’s western side. For visitors to France I still recommend the Côte d’Azur, but not in July and August. As for those night trains, sadly they’ve been phased out.

La Rochelle or Arcachon are good starting points, both little gems and both leading to beautiful islands: the Ile de Ré from La Rochelle and Cap Ferret from Arcachon. There’s also the Dune du Pyla that’s worth visiting, a massive sand dune and famous tourist destination that receives a million visitors per year.


At the foot of the dune, numerous campsites are nestled in the pine forests. It should be known that French campsites are far from rustic. No canoeing, setting up tents and fighting off black flies and racoons like I used to do in Canada. No roasting weenies and marshmallows over a campfire while sitting on a log singing Kumbaya. The French like their comfort; they also like rules, confined spaces and organized group activities. A decade ago, when the kids were little, we spent one July at a campsite located at the foot of the Dune du Pyla. It’s called Les Flots Bleus. We were assigned a mobile home on a patch of earth measuring roughly 20 square meters.

It was fun (and funny) to watch the French in a different habitat. No matter where they find themselves, they adhere to strict meal times. Lunchtime is lunchtime and at noon sharp you could smell the beginning of meals being cooked inside the mobile homes or on barbecues outside. Tables were set, wine bottles were uncorked and simple lettuce salads with home-made vinaigrette were prepared. Camembert was unwrapped and meat was grilled. People strode by carrying baguettes, purchased at the on-site and all-important boulangerie. I admire the French for their food and meal discipline. Living in France taught me how to eat properly. The number one rule? No snacking between meals!

In the afternoon, groups formed to play pétanque under the trees while the kids headed to the pool, the beach or the giant dune. To see my past posts on Arcachon and Cap Ferret, go up to the top right hand corner of this blog and type Arcachon into the Search box. Here’s a video of another Atlantic island I’ve yet to explore:


more weekend and new PNL album


The above photos were taken in the Old Town of Lille. There was a new installation art exhibition that I wanted to see. So we went with Soso’s sister, but not without having lunch first on the terrace. It was hot.


Back at the house, Soso’s 17-year-old brother was listening to the new PNL album. In the first sixteen hours of its release, the clip was viewed three million times on YouTube. French teenage boys and young adults idolize PNL; they wear the same clothes and haircut as the two brothers who form PNL, Tarik et Nabil Andrieu.

A new genre of rap music

In October 2016 I blogged this about them –

PNL, which stands for Peace and Lové, is two brothers, Tarik (29) and Nabil (27), who were born and raised in a tough housing estate in Corbeil-Essonnes, just south of Paris, an area notorious for crime.

Basically abandoned by their parents and growing up in the projects, Tarik and Nabil were part of an increasingly marginalized demographic. Their Algerian mother was largely absent, while their father, a Corsican pied-noir (a European who lived in Algeria under French colonial rule) is described in their songs as a gangster. Their lyrics are often peppered with Arabic. As for the rest of their biography, it’s a bit hazy although we do know that the younger brother spent time in prison for drug dealing.

Highly politicized, their earlier work was an angry diatribe of life in the projects. Today, extremely wealthy and the housing projects behind them, they have mellowed (but not entirely.) Here’s the clip from their new album, A L’Ammoniaque, just released.


heatwave, soccer World Cup weekend

This morning on the streets of Lille I was asked three times for money by three different men. They asked politely. I gave the first man a handful of centimes, all that I had left after buying my godson a bouncy ball. He said he was from Bulgaria. I had to say no to the other two men because I had no change left. My six-year-old godson, who was with me, witnessed all this. Later, when we had returned to the apartment and were playing with the bouncy ball in one of the back bedrooms, his 17 year old brother came in with a friend. “Tata Juliet,” he said, “Would you happen to have five or ten euros?”

I burst out laughing. “You’re the fourth male who has asked me for money this morning. What’s going on? Are the words “ask me for a handout” written on my forehead?”


the old town of Lille

Today, Sunday, was a heatwave all over France, 35 degrees Celsius (95F). We headed out this morning to the Musée des Beaux Arts (Fine Arts Museum) in the center of town. The interior spaces were lovely and cool, a perfect place for lingering. In France, all national museums offer free admittance on the first Sunday of every month.


We lingered over a glass of chilled apple juice at the bar. Then Soso lingered over a movie while I browsed in the adjoining gift shop. Then we went out into the searing heat and headed over to our favorite park and the Gare Saint Sauveur for lunch.


Yesterday (Saturday) was hot but tempered by a cool breeze. Two important events were taking place in towns and cities all over the country: the giant June sales, and the World Cup soccer match. You can imagine which event preoccupied my thoughts: the giant June sales, of course.


But as I meandered the streets of the Old Town popping in and out of shops, the sound of cheering crowds spilling out of bars caught my attention. Big TV screens had been installed, inside and out, and large crowds had gathered. It was 5:30 pm and the exuberance of the fans was contagious.


“Who’s playing?” I asked a group of fans. Ten heads looked at me as if I were stark raving mad, an alien from another planet. “France vs. Argentina,” was the reply. I hung around, took some photos, watched the match for ten minutes on the big screen then left. I wanted to get to Zara Home before it closed. 50% off on all items. I bought a gorgeous wool and mohair throw blanket, a Portuguese cotton bathroom rug, and some porcelain doorknobs for my new white Ikea wardrobe.

Oh, France won the soccer match 4 to 3.

More to come, but I must dash because Giant with Elizabeth Taylor, James Dean, and Rock Hudson (1956) is coming on the TV in 5 minutes.