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

This post was written in May 2018 when no one had ever heard the word COVID or Coronavirus. How carefree and untroubled we were back then! I’m so glad I have my blog archives to look back on and remember.


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!” (this is appropriate because it’s a church). Not a church, actually, but a cathedral. The Alexander Nevsky Cathedral is a Russian Orthodox cathedral located at number 12 rue Daru. Established in 1861, it was the first Russian Orthodox place of worship in France. To visit it, the nearest metro station is Ternes.


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 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. 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.


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 secular 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 swank restaurant-tea salon inside, but too expensive for my pocketbook.


Directly across the road is 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.


I know this district well because I worked in it for two years. It was one of the worst jobs I’ve 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 from French into English, but received no status or recognition as a translator. My sole consolation was the Parc Monceau located right beside the building. Small and romantic, it’s my most favorite Parisian 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.


The west entrance to the Parc Monceau (metro Courcelles)


Through the park and out the other side onto the boulevard Malesherbes to my favorite florist.


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 flowers.

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. (Update 2021: unfortunately, Cairns Donna no longer exists. Covid killed it.)

asparagus soup

I had a sudden craving for asparagus soup. So I walked to the shopping mall on my lunch hour today – a gorgeous, cold, blue-sky, sunny day – and bought all the ingredients. I’m going to make the soup right now while listening to a podcast. There’s something elegant about asparagus soup, I don’t know what exactly. Simple yet nourishing, it reminds me of old Gourmet magazines and dinner parties; springtime and Easter. The color green: nature, growth, renewal.

Craig Lee for The New York Times

we don’t want your candles

Despite the Covid ban, women across the country went ahead with their vigil for Sarah Everard.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said – Tonight Carrie and I will be lighting a candle for Sarah Everard and thinking of her family and friends.

Home secretary Priti Patel tweeted I’ll be lighting a candle tonight in Sarah’s memory.

Lighting a candle? How’s that going to help?

You can keep your blinking candles. We want real action. This is not a women’s issue, it’s a men’s issue. Stop blaming women! (what was she wearing? why was she outside at 9 pm? She asked for it.) and shift the blame to where it belongs: on men. Good men need to speak out more in defence of women rather than keeping silent. Young boys and teenage boys need to be educated on the subject of harassment and violence towards women in schools. Where are the mentors? All proof that this is still a deeply patriarchal society in which men refuse to confront and acknowledge this issue. (I’m talking ALL societies, not just British society.)

Women are sick and tired of having candles lit for them. Today, in France, “une marche blanche” (a white march) is being organized to pay tribute to 14-year old Alisha, pushed into the river Seine by two classmates and drowned. As for the 41-year old woman found dead in the Seine after disappearing from jogging? Nothing. No one’s talking about it. Just another statistic. In France, murders are referred to as “faits divers” which means “trivia” or “various bits of information”.

“Men are rarely challenged to think about their dominance, power and privilege. Lacking introspection and the ability to be examined, they are rendered invisible in the discourse about issues that are primarily about them. Men have been erased from much of the conversation about a subject that is centrally about men.” Jackson Katz – Educator, filmmaker, and author who has created a gender violence prevention and education program entitled ‘Mentors in Violence Prevention’.

Reclaim These Streets vigils to highlight women’s safety held across UK – latest updates | World news | The Guardian

the killing of Sarah Everard

In the space of one week, Sarah Everard went from the beautiful and vibrant young woman we see in these photographs to “human remains found in a woodland area.” She was snatched from a London street and murdered. We’ve all been following this terrible story. The disappearance of Sarah Everard is yet another statistic in the litany of violence towards women.


What happened?

On the night of Wednesday March 3rd, Sarah left a friend’s house in Clapham, South London at around 9 pm and began walking home. But she never arrived. She vanished.

On March 6, the Metropolitan Police raised the alarm over her disappearance. Friends and family said it was “totally out of character” for her not to be in contact with them.

Who was Sarah Everard?

33-year-old Sarah lived in Brixton, South London, and had recently started a new job as a marketing executive. Originally from the North of England (York) she had moved to London about 12 years ago after getting her geography degree at Durham University.

On March 7, police released footage showing Ms Everard walking alone along Poynders Road towards Tulse Hill, just south of Brixton. This is the last image of Sarah alive:


Who has been arrested on suspicion of murder and kidnap?

A Metropolitan police officer named Wayne Couzens, 48 years old, married and father of two children. It is believed that he may have lured Sarah into his vehicle by using his police badge. By sheer fluke, the breakthrough that led to the arrest came from CCTV footage from a passing London bus that had been travelling along the route where Ms Everard disappeared. Couzen’s wife has also been arrested.


Social media has been flooded with women sharing their experiences following Sarah’s disappearance.

Hundreds of Twitter users gave examples of the lengths they go to when out alone: lengthy detours, stick to well-lit streets, call a friend and clutch their keys between their fingers to feel safer.

Victim-shaming: don’t tell women not to walk home at night, tell men not to rape and kill. Stop focusing on women’s choices, and start focusing on the men that attack us.

VIGIL FOR WOMEN      #ReclaimTheseStreets

This weekend women are expected to attend a vigil held in Clapham Common, the park Sarah walked through on her journey before she is believed to have been kidnapped. (cancelled due to COVID)

The organisers wrote on Facebook: We believe that streets should be safe for women, regardless of what you wear, where you live or what time of day or night it is. It’s wrong that the response to violence against women requires women to behave differently. Women are not the problem.

We shouldn’t have to wear bright colours when we walk home and clutch our keys in our fists to feel safe. It’s wrong that the response to violence against women requires women to behave differently. As if it’s our fault.

In Clapham, police told women not to go out alone at night. Why should women stay at home cowering behind the curtains because of a male threat to women?

Below is an article in yesterday’s The Guardian entitled – Women tell men how to make them feel safe after Sarah Everard disappearance


  • women are repeatedly expected to change their behaviour to reduce personal risk, shifting responsibility away from the decisions and actions of men;
  • women feel scared and unsafe in public spaces;
  • women often go out of their way to avoid potentially unsafe situations. Taking lengthy detours and sticking to well-lit streets, talking on the phone as a deterrent, clutching their keys, and wearing comfortable shoes in case they need to run.

I’ve just read an article in the French press: a 41 year old woman was out jogging end of February in a Paris suburb. Then she went missing. Her body has just been fished out of the river Seine. Happens all the time here. Another female found dead.

A new article has just appeared in this evening’s The Guardian: Endemic violence against women is causing a wave of anger. Analysis: Sarah Everard’s disappearance sparks furious demands to address misogyny in the UK. Protest marches are planned in cities across the country (cancelled due to COVID).

Women tell men how to make them feel safe after Sarah Everard disappearance | UK news | The Guardian

Endemic violence against women is causing a wave of anger | #MeToo movement | The Guardian