Borgers with No Borders.

our lives, our loves — through our earthly adventures.

Archive for the category “Coolness on the Richter Scale”

Je reviens!

Literally, “I’m back!”

Mostly because I came across this fantastic, super duper Dior commercial that just must be shared. In case you haven’t seen it yet.

After spending a productive, fun, relaxing two-months back home , I .. well, dragged my feet back to Paris. Goodbye sun, goodbye glorious beaches, goodbye to my dear sisters and brothers. Three days after we arrived, I went back to my usual task of playing tourist guide to some very special people who visited for 10 days. And it is only now that I am slowly sinking back into our regular routines.

Kids are back in school, I am back on my computer, itching to cook as soon as I shed off some pounds I’ve put on over the summer. I am back indeed.

Today, I watched “Mange, prie, aime”  (in version original, of course). Loved it, but not as much as the book. Enjoyed it thoroughly if only to watch Julia Roberts play the character of Liz.  And the ad of Dior just before the movie was just what made me think of going back to minding my blog. For some strange reason, watching it made me giggle, happy to be back in Paris again.

Perhaps it might just make you want to come to Paris too?

Tall Story: For you, and the child that lives in You.

I’m taking a break from my french travel files and cooking adventures to share with you a different kind of story.  A Tall Story.

When I was a young girl at school, I had this classmate who just totally amazed me with her drawings.  She could sketch anything at all — with almost no effort — and it would turn out GREAT.  Her characters were mostly fat and pudgy, looking almost like they all sort of came from the same family tree.  And if I closed my eyes today, more than 40 years after, I can still visualize her drawings.  Back then, I thought:  One day, this girl will be famous.  And indeed.  That day has come.

Candy Quimpo-Gourlay, a Filipino, based in London for the past 20 or so years, was that classmate of mine.  And her day of crowning glory has arrived as she launches her first novel — “Tall Story.”  I have pre-ordered my copy of her book — and suggest you do the same.  Candy’s humor and realistic perspective on life is certainly one worth enjoying.  Whether it is for you, your children, or the child that lives within you.

TALL STORY:  What you want is not always what you get.  Even when your wishes come true.

Bookseller says of the book: “Candy Gourlay combines wry humour and profound comment on cultural identity.  It is an astute coming-of-age novel.  There is an assured quality to the writing which wholly envelops readers in this convincing, witty and poignant story about difference, assimilation and family dynamics.

Out in the UK on the 27th of May, July 2010 in the Philippines, and early 2011 in the United States.

I know I can’t wait to get my hands on my pre-ordered copy.  🙂  And I will be lucky enough to be in a high school reunion with Candy soon … as we celebrate her first big break in the great big wheel of Life.

Sinking in the South of France: Nice, Part 2

As if our 4-hour lunch followed by a 2-hour nap was not enough … life kicked in once again at cocktail time!  Whoa!  Isn’t this just the perfect vacation ever?

Hubby woke me up and literally pulled me out of bed to make sure I do not miss a beat with the action in the kitchen.  Starting with this:

… and this:

Yep.  That’s my dream kitchen in the background — with my dream stainless steel drawers, stainless steel cupboards, and that massive industrial stove!  If that kind of equipment doesn’t make you a great chef, I don’t know what will!  I could easily see myself setting up camp in that kitchen anytime!

And you know what else was shining in this stainless steel splendor?  This thingamajig, which was roasting a cuchon. Indoors.  Wooooooooooooow, right?

So, the indispensable champagne glasses started to clink while le cuchon was cooking.  (Wait.  Do you see that uber long nail-looking thing on the left side of the awesome grill — just waiting for a kebab to happen???)  Wooooooooooow again, right?

A roquette salad (picked from their garden!) with freshly carved pata negra (in case you missed it, check out picture #1 again!), artichokes, and those crunchy flower-shaped tomatoes from Italy called “Merenda’s.”  Some very baby carrots on the side of le cuchon … and roasted potatoes drizzled with garlic.  One bite and again, I thought I had died and went to heaven.  🙂

How can such simple cooking result in a meal that is one you will remember forever?  Someone once said that along with a Chef’s ability to put flavors and textures together, is his successful choice of using only the best quality ingredients.  I couldn’t agree more.  When you have the best quality of pork, carrots, potatoes, … down to the best grain of salt, butter, and olive oil — there will be very little reason to fail.

Truly, simple home cooking … at its best!

Loving Lourdes.

I have a Bucket List for Ma Vie à Paris.  A bucket list that requires checking for the next couple of years during our Paris assignment (if all goes as planned).  And this weekend, I got to tick one of the items on that list:  Visit Lourdes (pronounced as “loord.”)  Check.

Lourdes is located in the South of France, in the Midi-Pyrénées region, very close to the border of Spain and France.  I was originally supposed to go with my family — who were sad victims of the airport closures while the Iceland volcanic ash spread all over Europe’s air space.  They cancelled their trip all together, and I was left with two unnamed first class tickets on the TGV.

I tried not to dampen our well-structured plans  and tried to stay optimistic.  As my mantra goes —  “There is a reason for everything.”  It didn’t take much to convince my six-year-old to come join the fun (tried to make it sound like Disneyland for people who pray), and invited Ani (who was only too happy to visit a place she had heard so much about from all her Catholic friends.)

By 7:30AM, we were all comfortably installed in our little cabin, whose charisma lasted for but a very short moment.  Apparently, the chaos of panicky travelers trying to reach their destinations muddled up the records of TGV — and there were passengers with the same seat numbers, all hustling to make their way to the South where they could get on a plane to continue their journeys.  Our train didn’t move until one solid hour past our scheduled departure — and we just sat there, not amused by the added 60 minutes to our already lengthy 6-hour journey.

But it eventually moved… and we enjoyed the comfort for about 3 hours or so …

… until an all-French announcement said something about having to switch trains in Bordeaux.  “Voie 3” was all I barely understood — and before we could figure out what was happening, the train stopped, sput us out into another train that screeched to a halt.  Then… madness.  Where do we sit?  Which cabin?  Which seat?  Do we all have our belongings?  What ever happened to those First Class tickets I paid for?

Epic Fail.  Downgraded to the barracks, with nary a seat.  We managed to hop into just any cabin on that train that screeched by, before the doors were shut.  It was chaotic.  Everyone was scrounging for a seat, and the passengers who were originally on THAT train were looking at us like we were train-jumping-gypsies.  All seats were quickly filled up and we ended up in that little passage way between the door to the cabin and the metal luggage racks.  There we were — standing, squatting, and finally sitting on the floor for whatever time was left between Bordeaux and Lourdes.  Great.  We were off to a great start.

Here we are trying to make light of the situation, pretending that the train floors were not the filthiest surfaces on earth. (Take note of my teenage daughter’s huge effort to “just deal with it.”)  We had been reduced to refugees aboard the speedy TGV.

Yet again … we eventually made it.  We easily found a taxi, checked-in at Hotel Roissy — a simple, basic hotel with a great location, a mere 100 meters from the Sanctuary’s main entrance.  We walked down the streets that were studded with shops selling everything and anything made to relate to Lourdes:  from hats, to rosaries, to all sorts of shapes and sizes of bottles for Holy Water.  We intended to go to a restaurant claimed to be one of the best in Lourdes for paella — but when we got there, we were told it was closed.  No reason.  Just “fermé.”  Sad.  Lesson learned:  Research the restaurants first before going on a trip.  We soon found an alternative — which proved good enough for the intense level of hunger we had — and left like four satisfied piggies after their trip to the market.

Then, we walked through the St. Michael Gate to enter the Sanctuary.  Suddenly, the feeling of peace just enfolds you.  And when you are greeted by a site like this … you forget the 7 hour train ride, the grime on your jeans, and the total waste of money on those tickets you purchased.

Suddenly, your problems disappear and you are almost ashamed of all the whining of the past 3 hours.

Peace, enchantment, spirituality, wonder, and thanks.  Repeated feelings that moved each of us through the 24-hours that we were at Lourdes.

We joined the Torchlight Marian Procession at 9:00PM — which was the one experience that affected my daughter the most, I think.  She had never been to one before — and I am sure that her heart was touched as she witnessed the unified praying of the rosary in at least 6 different languages, the candles, the hundreds of sick people in wheelchairs and beds being pushed and pulled by volunteers and nurses.

My poor little boy was so tired towards the end of the whole ceremony that he fell asleep while sitting on top of Ani’s feet, amidst the sea of people who were praying and singing.  We all went to bed that night exhausted, but with quiet smiles on our faces.

The next day, we went to the Baths — which to me, was the most touching of all.  I cannot put into words the intensity of the emotions that just enveloped me.  Without much planning, we ended up in the Baths at the perfect time — when there was hardly a line, despite the hundreds of pilgrims we had just seen the night before.  The women helping at the Baths were totally amazing — I could feel  their inner goodness, their faith — just dying to be shared with all those filled with hopes in their hearts.  The tears from my eyes just kept trickling down as the women took my little boy, quietly coached him to pray to the Blessed Virgin, and to walk through that Bath before they plunged him down into the water.

He wriggled for a second from the cold, for sure — but in a matter of seconds, he was dry and warm again, no towel required, all set to get back into the clothes he had just removed.  Amazing.  Totally amazing.

For me, this experience alone is worth every minute, every penny, and any hardship of one’s long journey to Lourdes.

The rest of the day was spent filling up our 2-liter bottles with Holy Water from the Water Way, visiting and praying at the Grotto, the Crypt, and the St. Pius X Basilica.

IB filling up our take-home stock of Holy Water at the Water Way.

St. Pius X Basilica

There is always a miracle waiting to happen.

All four of us left Lourdes feeling a tad bit lighter, and a whole of a lot more peaceful — with renewed faith in our hearts.

And I am sure, that all the wishes and prayers that were whispered to our Blessed Mother were already heard and answered, even before we stepped out of those gates for the last time to catch our train back.

Helpful Links for would-be Visitors:

Official Site of Lourdes Sanctuary

Lourdes Magazine

Hotel Roissy

Hotel Padoue (beside Hotel Roissy, which looked a bit newer, slightly more expensive)

My New Obsession

With weather that is constantly freezing (at least for my Asian skin!), see-sawing between -2 to 6 degrees, with snow and rain every now and then, I have found a new love:  Boots!  In any shape, size and color.  They keep my little toes warm, dry, and pretty!  Well OK… sometimes, they are just never warm enough… but they certainly provide me with some sort of shield against the cold.  I just love, love, love them… and wish we could wear them all year long!

With the winter sales on (yes, it is only in Paris where there are GOVERNMENT-MANDATED sales!)… this obsession is just further fueled, much to my hubby’s dismay.

Five boots since we set foot in Paris in September.  That’s almost 1.25 pairs per month.  🙂  Since a week ago, DH has declared a ban on purchasing yet another pair to add to my growing collection.  I have been good for two weeks now … although lately, there has been so much rain that I couldn’t help but think of … rain boots!  (And since the ban did not include “surfing” to salivate on them… my sister and I almost spent a whole morning commenting on the sumptuous choices available.  This newly discovered genre of boots:  Yummm!)

It’s almost a science when you go boot-picking.  I realized it is never a good thing to purchase this online (or so I keep trying to convince myself) because you have to actually FIT them to make sure they do not touch the back of your knees!  Also, since I do not have small calves, the circumference at the top of the boot becomes a critical factor!  So they may fit your feet… but you may have to go half a size more to get them to comfortably fit your calves, plus your jeans!  Then, there’s the allowance for the kind of socks you will wear with them:   How thick will your socks be?  Do you plan on wearing them with those cute warm fleece socks… like these beautiful ones from Hunter?

Yeah.  And those are just the socks.  Accessories, as they call it.

And Rain Boots?  Today… they no longer have to look boring.  Gucci, Givenchy, Jimmy Choo…. they all have their own version of rain boots that is sure to brighten up your rainy day!  My favorite ones for now are the classic Hunter’s (from good ol’ Scotland!).  But that’s just me.  Always on the safe and reasonable side.  These are my Hunters NOT!  Not yet.

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Here are a few others that will definitely make a fashion statement!  Ed Hardy’s Rain Boots, Roxy’s Black and White’s.

shoes_iaec1117665

Roxy

Then, there’s Burberry’s take on ’em rain boots — a simple, understated fashion jewel … or Sperry’s rugged paisley boots (my sis’ choice).

burberry_stud_rainboots_2008sperr49675_144067_jb

I can’t get enough out of fantasizing on these rain boots.  And somehow, this time, I know I won’t even need to drive a tractor nor own a cow to justify wearing them!

No wonder I love the rain!!!

A Weekend in Burgundy & Port Lesney

burgundy

Our first weekend of work and play, sans kids.  Final destination was to spend a day with an old friend of DH who was turning 50:  a 2-star Michelin chef, super cool, headband-cum-leather-pants-sporting dude who shoots with the conventional film loaded on his 21-year-old Nikon.  He does not own an email address, does not work a computer, runs one of THE best restaurants in Nice which does not accept credit cards, does not have a phone, does not take reservations.  No menu, you eat what he finds in the market each morning.  Epitome of simplifying life.  Cool, right?

But before we reach the final destination, a quaint and beautiful chateau in Port Lesney, we take the opportunity to visit Burgundy.  But of course!  Vineyards, wine-tasting, picturesque scenes.  Home-cooked Escargot and Beef Coq au Vin for dinner, ending with a taste of their local cheese.  Yumm begins.

vineyards-burgundy

While in the area, we visited the Hospices de Beaune, also known as the “Palace for the Poor.”  Founded in 1440 by Nicolas Rolin, to house the poor and the needy.  A spectacular showcase of French architecture in the 15th Century!

beaune

Then, we finish off the 425 kilometer drive at our destination:  Chateau de Germigney, Port Lesney.  We join the birthday celebrant and his 20 some guests at a typical bistro just “down the road.”  An even yumm-ier lunch:  Frog Legs and Oysters to start, a huge beautifully-stuffed fowl, and the most mouth-watering dessert I have yet tasted:  a Paris-Brest.  A nice light pastry with whipped cream, with subtle hints of crunchy caramel and almonds.

The afternoon was then spent visiting another historical place — a castle built in the 1500’s, where a “village” was formed within its walls to produce salt.  The architecture of the building looked almost “modern” — a sign of a creator born way before his time.  The “village” was contained in a semi-circle lay out, with the Director’s house smack in the center.  Imagine living in a structure like so:

thanks to master liv for helping me edit this photo!

thanks to master liv for helping me edit this photo!

Dinner was the clincher:  a 7-course meal that necessitated 4 cigarette breaks, and 4 hours of emptying each plate of exquisite dishes prepared with such care and love.  Did I mention the matching wines as well?  Truly an evening of fine taste.  (I must add that those ciggie breaks had to be taken in the adjacent terrace, amidst the winds of winter, with frozen fingers, a cocktail dress, and only a pashmina to throw around my shoulders.)

Oh… it was a tough weekend indeed.  Especially when we had to eventually retire in a room that looked like this.

chateaux-de-germigney

Life is certainly beginning to brighten up on this side of the world (despite the temperatures at -5 degrees)!

Weekend Rating:  9.5 out of 10. (Also because I managed to find my way home!  DH had to continue driving down to Cannes for business, so I had to take the TGV from Dijon to Paris.  I alight at Gare de Lyon, armed with my “metro instructions” all memorized, only to find out that Line Number 1 was “out of order.”  Panic… NOT!  Because I never leave home without my Metro map!  I figured a reroute and skipped all the way home, proud to be slowly developing into a more learned Anglophone.  Yay for me!)

One last P.S.

Can’t leave this post without a picture of  the loo.  I mean… how bloody cool is that?  How much french-ier can a french loo be?

chateaux-bathroom

His 15 Minutes of Fame

Tooting my DH, as captured on French Television news last Sunday.  For those who do not speak French, he is actually showing off our new home under construction.  That’s why you see the B’s on the ceiling.  LOL!!!

Seriously, the news feature shows the Hotel under reconstruction, Roland Bonaparte’s palace in the 1800’s.  Fabulous treat for the eyes… and truly a hotel opening to watch for!

P.S. Sorry IT people… but I can’t seem to get that “trial version” notation out.  Maybe the program’s price will be worth an investment if he ever makes it to the news again!  LOL!

Kicking in the X’mas Spirit at Champs Elysees

While DH was gone for the weekend, we decided to go on an adventure to visit the much-talked about Xmas lights at the world’s most beautiful avenue:  the Champs Elysees.  We alighted from the underground metro, jaws dropped, eyes wide open, big smiles on each of our faces!  There were flickering lights all around us, bluish in tone; the smell of saucisson and hot apple cider filled the air, and the people — lots of them just buzzing about!  Instant Christmas spirit in the air!  And did I mention, shops and shops on both sides of the road selling specialties from various provinces of France!  Wonderful wonderful feeling!

champs elysses nov

The highlight of our visit was the big snowflake of a ferris wheel.  It was the most high-tech one I have ever seen in my entire life!  Each “cabin” could fit 6 people comfortably.  Upholstered seats, a switch to turn on a lamp, speakers to listen to a man (in French of course) pointing out the historical sites around you.  Thank God the cabins were fully enclosed — otherwise at -2 degrees, we would have been ice sculptures by the time we reached the top!  Here’s how it looked from a distance.

Ferris Wheel 1

But the best shots to see are the close-up ones — so you can see what I mean by “high-tech!”  Three men-in-black escorted the passengers into the cabins.  And strangely enough, one cabin was even marked as “VIP” with its windows heavily tinted.  Maybe that was the cabin that had the bar I was looking for … or maybe even some hot chocolate for the ride!

ferris wheel 3

The downside of the evening?  Freezing toes.  I thought I would be the first person to suffer from frost bites in Paris!  I found myself wishing I had just bought the same Ugg boots as my two kids — whose toes were all warm and toasty.  Now I am convinced that I just need one of ’em — no matter how bulky or unflattering they look on a 40+Vat- aged-woman.  The sheep fur on the inside, I read, helps to regulate your body temperature (you’re supposed to wear them without socks!).  When I read this, I thought, “yeah — right” but after that evening on Champs Elysees — I was convinced, it just has to make it on my next To-Buy List!

By the time we went home, numb-toes and all, we had:  survived 2 Toboggan rides, purchased fluffy warm slippers for my nanny and my son, won a toy from a “fishing game,” and sampled some warm apple cider.

Just enough to make the Christmas spirit kick in.

ferris wheel 4

Oh, I should add that we spent the evening with Fenna, my DD’s good friend from our KK days, who came to visit for the weekend.  My DD was just so touched by her visit — a sweet sweet reminder of their simple, lovely days.

fenna

Jason Mraz: 9.0 points!

Coolness on the Richter Scale:  9.0 for Jason Mraz.

In his very early thirties, this Virginia-born singer-songwriter is Mr. Cool, both in my daughter’s books and mine.  He is one of those boys that a mother wouldn’t mind having her daughter bring home one day.  He looks like a simple boy-next-door who loves to sing, play with his words, babble… and  be actually good at it!

He is so cool… that my DD actually searched the internet and found that he would be conveniently staging a concert in Paris on September 24!  She begged, cajoled, pleaded and bribed to get me to buy the tickets … which I eventually succumbed to (after watching his videos that were just conveniently showing in every TV set we had at home!).  Unfortunately, by the time I succumbed, the tickets were sold out.  What was originally selling on his site for EU23 per person had now sky-rocketed to EU109 on other internet ticketing sites.

DH and I thought it might be a nice event for her to look forward to, along with the move to Paris… so we closed our eyes and bought it.  Two tickets for mother and daughter to enjoy a happy hip hot concert of Mraz.

Then, the bad news.  DD’s first school field trip just got scheduled smack into the concert date.  The school is going on a field trip to Cote d’ Azur on the French Riviera for 3 days.  Brainless choice, right?  School comes first, as my Mother always said.  So daughter is bumming because she can’t be in two places at one time.  Mother is bumming even more because… what the hell do I do with those tickets now?  It’s not like I can peddle them on the streets on concert day.  In French? … Nahhh. I can’t ask DH to watch it with me … unless I trick him and say it’s a concert of Johnny Hallyday.  And even if he miraculously agrees, what are we to do with my little 4-year old?

I even tried to sell the tickets back to the vendor, tried to resell it through a Ticketing Site (GetMeIn) … no luck.  So if anyone is in Paris and just happens to be free on the 24th of September, give me a ring.

So… Let’s add some salt on the wound and dream about what we will be missing…

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