Polignano a Mare (Puglia, Italy)

I fell in love with this town five years ago. Perched on a limestone cliff overlooking the Adriatic Sea, it was the perfect escape from crowded polluted Paris.

I’d stand on this promontory and breathe in deep gulps of clean air. There was always a cool wind blowing in from Croatia, Albania and Greece beyond. I loved the color of the sea: deep Adriatic blue.

An afternoon slice of cheesecake and caffè in ghiaccio con latte di mandorla, a blend of almond milk, almond syrup and espresso poured over ice cubes.

I was touched by the gesture of this mother and daughter, madre e figlia, holding hands in a supermarket. Family is tight in Italy, especially in the south.

As I was crossing a town square, a woman whose hair bounced and shone in the sunlight was walking in front of me. I loved the color. I wanted my hair to look like that. I stopped and complimented her, then asked where she got her hair done. She gave me the name and address of the salon.

Lovely people. The further south you go, the more expansive and outgoing they are. There’s an exuberance in Italy that appeals to me greatly. On my last day, I went to this rooftop bar, ordered myself a glass of Prosecco, and sat contemplating the sea.

For me, Polignano is a cleansing place.

Arrivederci! I’ll be back.

Two more posts to come: Lecce and Rome.

This is a post written in June 2019 that I’m reposting. I had taken an 11-day train trip through Italy right down to Puglia, deep in the heel of the boot. It was marvellous. I also visited Rome with two friends and then Lecce and Bologna on my own. Click on ITALY up top to read my travelogues from that memorable June trip. I ended up in Nice, France.

Had I known that a mere six months later, in January 2020, COVID would hit Italy hard, primarily in the regions of Lombardy, Veneto and Emilia-Romagna, but other regions too, including Puglia – hundreds and thousands of Italians dead, the majority of them elderly – I would have fallen off my chair.

Elizabeth Taylor’s face

My mother’s social life was a swirl of parties, rustling dresses, stiletto heels and hankies fragrant with perfume. While she readied herself for another Saturday night gathering, I’d sit cross-legged in the middle of my parents’ bed and leaf through the latest issues of Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar and McCall’s (we had magazines galore in our house, stacks in every room.)

I can still see my mother’s dresser top with the ivory-framed photos of her mother and aunts, the cut-glass powder jar atop a lace doily, assorted perfume bottles − a winged L’Air du Temps, a square beveled Chanel No. 5, a crystal Diorissimo − and the three-tier jewelry box whose open lid revealed a trove of brooches, bracelets and earrings resting on the velvet-lined trays.

On one of those evenings, I remarked on the beautiful women that graced the magazine covers strewn across the bedspread. Staring out at me were the faces of Audrey Hepburn, Grace Kelly, Sophia Loren and Mia Farrow who had just divorced Frank Sinatra.

“Do you know what real beauty is?” my mother said, her muffled voice floating out to me from the closet where she was searching for a favorite cocktail dress, the black crepe with the satin bow in the back.

“No, what?” I said idly, flipping pages.

“Perfectly-proportioned features … like Elizabeth Taylor’s face.”

“Like Elizabeth Taylor’s face,” I murmured under my breath, still flipping until I came to a Twiggy fashion spread and studied it.

Later, when my mother had gone down the hall in search of my father, I slid off the bed and went to the dresser to study my face in the mirror. Did I possess real beauty? Were my features perfectly-proportioned? They were not. My nose and forehead were too large and my mouth was too small. But I wasn’t bothered much. My life was too full and carefree to fret over such things.


(an excerpt from my memoir)

Copyrighted Material

a perfect summer’s day

This post was written a few years ago. One of my favorites, I’m reposting it.

The weather was so perfect I wanted to preserve it in a bottle: cobalt-blue sky, blazing sun and a cool breeze blowing in from somewhere. Impossible to stay indoors! I jumped on the metro and crossed town to my favorite large park in Paris.


On the number 14 line, there are two metro stops that serve the Parc de Bercy, one at either end: Cour Saint-Émilion which takes you directly to Bercy Village, and Bercy, at the far end of the park. Personally, I prefer Bercy because it allows me to walk through the elongated, beautiful park that runs parallel to the river Seine.


Inaugurated in 2006, this is the Simone de Beauvoir footbridge that leads to the famous BnF (Bibliothèque nationale de France) on the other side.


Bercy Village is located at the end of Bercy Park (metro stop Cour Saint-Émilion on the number 14 line.) Tastefully designed and spread out along a single pedestrian street, it houses an even number of shops and restaurants. It’s what I call a “feel good” place.


Here’s a favorite shop of mine. Fragonard sells gorgeous soaps, bath products, body creams as well as clothes, jewelry and a few home furnishings. If you’re looking for gifts, this is the place to go. It’s also beautifully air-conditioned.


Their signature glycerine soaps cost 5 euros apiece. I bought a green one (Verveine which is lemon verbena). I also bought a gift box of four jasmine soaps for only 12 euros per box. The prices at Fragonard are reasonable, the quality excellent.


To see more photos of Bercy Park (and the open-air swimming pool on the river Seine) from a blog post written three summers ago, click here –


Paris re-opens!

Paris is re-opening – hooray! (Or “hourra!”, as we say in France.)

What with curfew, lockdown, stores, restaurants and museums shuttered, it’s been glum. Over the weekend and because of the 7 pm curfew, the kids and I couldn’t go out at night. Starting tomorrow though there’ll still be a curfew but pushed forward to 9 pm.

Starting tomorrow, it’s all opening up: department stores, museums, cinemas and theaters, café terraces and all stores and shops (with limited numbers of people allowed.) What I missed most were museums and department stores. I cook a lot at home, so I didn’t miss restaurants that much.

My first outing? To Au Printemps department store on the boulevard Haussmann and to the magnificent Louvre to wander the exhibition halls and look at great, great Art.

There’s also the new Hotel de la Marine which has just opened on the Place de la Concorde after years and years of renovation. Link below.

Louvre Museum Official Website

Hôtel de la Marine (hotel-de-la-marine.paris)

long weekend ahead, kids coming, a funny ad with de Niro and Federer

I’m posting this now because I won’t have a minute to myself starting Thursday. A 4-day weekend is coming up, Thursday is Ascension Day, and most people take the Friday off as well. The kids are coming from Lille to spend the long weekend with their Tata Juliet. They travel down on the train by themselves and I meet them at the Gare du Nord train station. The weather is forecast to be cool and drizzly, so I guess we’ll just hang out in my flat and make cookies, pizza and crepes (their favorite.) Soso will dance for us and make us laugh (he just turned 9), M will lie on her back plugged into her telephone (she’s 16). At night we’ll watch DVDs – I have Wallace and Gromit, Toy Story 3 and M wants to rewatch The Wizard of Oz. M has an essay to write in English, so I’ll help her.

I love this new ad with Robert de Niro and Roger Federer. Thought I’d share it with you.

(317) No Drama. – YouTube


Saturday night funk. Covid vaccine. Kylie’s magic.

8 pm on curfew Saturday night in Paris. We’re still under semi-lockdown here. I had my first Covid vaccine yesterday. It went well, but my arm hurts where I was jabbed.

Glanced at the headlines on the online newspapers. Depressing as hell. Why do I even bother?

Blasts target school in west Kabul killing at least 40 people – Attack in Afghan capital injures mainly female students coming out of school.


And just when you want to stop the world and get off (although we should be rejoicing over the plummeting Covid numbers), I switched to YouTube to see what Kylie was up to in Tuscany with her fiancé. It’s clear why she has thousands of followers. When you’re feeling blue or overwhelmed by all the violence and terrible things happening in the world, she delivers just the opposite. She brings love, beauty and simplicity. Grazie, Kylie. I needed this tonight.

(308) RELAXING CINEMATIC COOKING: Pasta with Homegrown Artichokes in Tuscany, Italy – YouTube

the Parisian “It” handbag

This is the new bag in Paris. Don’t you love it? Numéro un, it’s called. Number one.

Handcrafted in Spain and sporting a huge range of colors.

Polène is a Parisian leather goods brand founded in 2016 by two brothers and a sister. The brand’s collections embody confident and classical true line combined with fluid and graceful curves. Inspired by the work of designers such as Madeleine Vionnet, Mariano Fortuny and Madam Grès, folds were incorporated into the collections, thus enhancing the leather’s malleability and strengthening the sculptural aspect of the designs. Passion for quality pushed the founders to use the best hand-made artisan production in Spain.

There is one boutique in Paris. Link to their beautiful website below.

Polène – Maison de maroquinerie parisienne | E-shop (polene-paris.com)