Paris… Standing Strong

I’ve read endless articles, posts, tweets and have personally received more messages than I can ever count. You’ve warmed my heart. Thank you for the outpouring of support. We’re doing the best we can to overcome effects of the horrible events that took place in our city. Our prayers and thoughts go out to all touched by the horrors here in Paris and to those touched in similar attacks across the globe.

Eif Tower Blue White Red

Eiffel Tower: Blue, White & Red  – Photograph: Bellanda

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Getting thrown a medical curveball while living the dream in Paris, France

When living the dream throws you a curveball... All rights reserved -Bellanda

When living the dream throws you a curveball…
All rights reserved -Bellanda

As some of you know, I haven’t been as active as I was when I first began this blog about life in Paris. It’s not that I ran out of ideas, nor that I got bored with this amazing city. Unfortunately, I have been suffering from an illness that showed its first signs back in 2006. The symptoms have increased to such an extent over the last three years that my days of running around have been limited. Gone, for now, is my pink super cape that I wore figuratively to juggle my activities & different roles throughout the day. Here, is a new day… one that exposes me to things I never would have imagined… one that challenges me to rise above and to truly see what is important. Here is the day, when I will share something far more personal than my latest visit to some glorious place in Paris.

So, what’s it like being ill in Paris? Well, I guess it’s safe to say that being ill sucks no matter where you are… but I’d rather focus my attention on the positive, because I am lucky… lucky for each day that I get to spend with my dear man & supportive family. I’m lucky for each precious moment that I get to be with and watch my little ones grow up in this gorgeous city.

There are far worse places to be ill than Paris. Walking the streets of this beautiful city, while soaking in its history, always lifts my spirits. Yes, I wish I had more energy to run around and take part in all it has to offer, but knowing I’m near, gives me hope and inspiration to be able to fight this thing.

Looking at Paris from the medical standpoint… there again, I am lucky. I don’t know where I would be without the incredible medical system in France as well as the medical facilities here in Paris. Actually, I do know… I probably wouldn’t be here.

In 2009, unrelated to my present illness, my doctor ran a test based on a hunch… I can’t even imagine trying to explain that to an insurance company back home. It turned out that he was onto something. They found and removed a cancerous polyp, informing me that if they hadn’t removed it, I would have had no more than 5 years before it was too late. To this day, I am still too young for this kind of test to be approved randomly in the USA. As proof, even though my brother’s insurance company knew about my cancer scare, they wouldn’t allow him to have the same test performed until he was what they considered the right age, 50.

Since then, doctors have found and removed two other tumors in two other locations… and have been working hard to put my best medical interests at heart. My kids joke that I’ve been in just about every hospital in Paris, and upon seeing one I haven’t been to ask, “When do you get to go there?”

So, yes, I am thankful that if I had to have an illness, that it is being taken care of at one of the best facilities for rare diseases. I’m with one of the finest doctors in the field & can see him or any other doctor of my choice when I need to and not when the insurance company decides I do. I have access to medications that can hopefully slow down the progression of the illness with next to no out-of-pocket money, and doctors who will run tests to make sure that my well-being is priority. I’m not rich, nor do I have connections who hooked me up with these doctors. This is something available to all residents. All of these things make having a long-term illness easier, because let’s face it, it’s hard enough knowing that you’ll have to tackle health problems for the rest of your days.

I will continue to try to convert the not so great into something positive & humorous… as I did in my article: “Leave it to the French to Make Medical Stockings Sexy!” https://bellandainparis.wordpress.com/2012/12/13/leave-it-to-the-french-to-make-medical-stockings-sexy/  It’s a daily battle that isn’t always easy, but considering the alternative, I’m one of the lucky ones.

So, why so many illnesses? Do I blame it on bad genes? Probably not… my genetic line on both sides of the family live well into their late 90s. Bad luck? Perhaps, but it most likely didn’t help growing up in a small town in the USA that was poisoned by a local factory. They illegally dumped chemical toxins that severely polluted the ground, air & water to dangerous levels for almost 100 years before it ever became public.

Sadly, my story is far more common than one might expect. Remember the film, Erin Brockovich? I was not from this particular town, but their story is a familiar one. Today, people are fighting to get towns like these cleaned up. I recently read a fabulous book on this subject entitled, The Brook, by John Sinsimer. It was inspired by a true story. Having grown up in a place exactly like the one in this book, I want to thank Mr. John Sinsimer for all he has done to bring this kind of a subject to the forefront. It is both well-written and captivating.

The Brook by John Sinsimer

The tragedy that surrounds such environmental events is mind-boggling. When you have witnessed friends and loved ones die at a young age… and others who are battling disease just to get through the day, you realize what is most important. My energy is too precious to focus on being angry, and hating the world is not my style. I prefer to be a lover of people, places & cultures. I decided long ago that I could either get angry, or I could take whatever energy and time that I have on this earth and live the dream as best I can. There are things we can control and other things we cannot. How we decide to handle the things we cannot control, makes all of the difference in the world.

In this Social Network age, that links complete strangers from across the globe, we often don’t truly know what someone is living unless they decide to open up. Until now, to so many of you, I was just another gal living it up in Paris. I’m still that gal, I’m just a little more real.

Paris Sans Voitures… a true pleasure!

Paris Sans Voitures 2015

Paris Sans Voitures 2015

Ever experience crossing the busy Champs Elysées or La Place de la Concorde on foot? As with many big cities, it can be a bit of a challenge, even with the pedestrian lights. I’ve been caught numerous times on the middle platform clinging to my little ones until the light changed yet again, praying that they wouldn’t jet back into traffic as we waited.

This past weekend was different. We got the chance to walk in the streets of Paris… literally! What a pleasure and special opportunity. It was the first time that the city of Paris liberated its streets from cars, giving the opportunity for Parisians and tourists to enjoy the city without stress and added noise/pollution.

Paris Sans Voitures 2015

Paris Sans Voitures 2015

Although this was not the kind of day to leave your real camera at home, I decided to simply enjoy the walk with my loved ones. As many of you know, my energy levels can be inconsistent due to my illness. Unfortunately, this particular weekend, carrying my camera equipment was out to the question. That said, I couldn’t imagine not sharing this special event with all of you. Hope that you don’t mind the smartphone images… it’s the spirit of the event that counts, right? 😉

Celebrating European Heritage Day in France

French Heritage Day at Château de Vincennes Photos: Bellanda - All rights reserved

French Heritage Day at Château de Vincennes
Photos: Bellanda – All rights reserved

This past weekend was French Heritage Day (Les Journées du Patrimoine). Since 1984, France has opened its doors to history and culture. The weekend offers opportunities to visit government buildings, monuments, and other sites that are normally closed to the public. Entrance to these places, in addition to those that are regularly open to public, are free. Many monuments offer guided tours or special activities during the weekend. You don’t need to be French, as visits are open to everyone on the third weekend of each September… I highly recommend it!

This year, we decided to take the kids to the Château de Vincennes. We planned on visiting the château, the keep (tallest medieval keep in France) and the grounds… but we had no idea of what a treat we would get until we walked up to the front of the château. What a great surprise!

French Heritage Day at Château de Vincennes Photos: Bellanda – All rights reserved

Several associations brought us on a little trip back in time, building memorable moments for our little ones. They were amazed to see the American flag waving on a military jeep alongside another jeep displaying the French flag. Their very own two cultures were present, which brought about great discussion.

French Heritage Day at Château de Vincennes Photos: Bellanda - All rights reserved

French Heritage Day at Château de Vincennes –  The Association Vincennes en Anciennes
Photos: Bellanda – All rights reserved

French Heritage Day at Château de Vincennes Photos: Bellanda - All rights reserved

French Heritage Day at Château de Vincennes – The Association Vincennes en Anciennes Photos: Bellanda – All rights reserved

Within the courtyard of the Chateau, we got a glimpse of life of as a soldier in a military camp reenactment…

French Heritage Day at Château de Vincennes Photos: Bellanda - All rights reserved

French Heritage Day at Château de Vincennes
Photos: Bellanda – All rights reserved

1815-1915

French Heritage Day at Château de Vincennes Photos: Bellanda - All rights reserved

French Heritage Day at Château de Vincennes
Photos: Bellanda – All rights reserved

French Heritage Day at Château de Vincennes Photos: Bellanda - All rights reserved

French Heritage Day at Château de Vincennes
Photos: Bellanda – All rights reserved

Great thanks to everyone who took part in making the events at Château de Vincennes truly fabulous. Bravo!

We’re already looking forward to next year… Maybe we’ll visit the Palais de l’Elysée!  🙂

Are you this guy? Remember… life isn’t only about work. 

Remember:  take time to break away and have some fun!

We had a blast creating this video & finding the most amazing locations in Paris.

All rights reserved Bellanda ®

All rights reserved
Bellanda ®

 AGAIN AGAIN – Music performed by AFTERMOON

Video  –  A Story developed & created by Steve Guibert & Bellanda

Thank you to AFTERMOON for trusting us to create this clip for your music.

Recorded and mixed by Benjamin Le Jean @Gaijin Studio

Mastered by Chab

Video  –  A Story developed & created by Steve Guibert & Bellanda

Directed and Edited by Steve Guibert

Actor – Jean-Rodolphe Laclau

Film locations : Paris, France – CD&B offices and Caveau des oubliettes

Special thanks to CD&B, Ramcesprod, Crisprod, Caveau des oubliettes, Kasia Dietz, Fanny Mikol Frequelin, Zoé Mikol and to all of you in the bar scene who helped make this clip happen.

Aftermoon Official YouTube : https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCVxF

Aftermoon Official Facebook : https://www.facebook.com/aftermoon

Aftermoon Official Website : http://www.aftermoon-band.com

Aftermoon Official Twitter : https://twitter.com/Aftermoonband

Steve Guibert : steve.guibert@gmail.com

Steve Guibert LinkedIn : https://www.linkedin.com/in/SteveGuibert

Bellanda LinkedIn : https://www.linkedin.com/in/bellanda

Bellanda Twitter : https://twitter.com/BellandaInParis

Bellanda Facebook : https://www.facebook.com/Bellanda

REAL… NEW YORK BAGELS ARE NOW IN PARIS!

BRUEGGER’S New York Style Bagels at the foot of the Montparnasse Tower! 11 rue de l’Arrivée 75015 – Paris, France – Photo: Bellanda ®

BRUEGGER’S New York Style Bagels at the foot of the Montparnasse Tower! 11 rue de l’Arrivée 75015 – Paris, France – Photo: Bellanda ®

Yes, you read that correctly. REAL… freshly baked, New York bagels are finally here! Some of you might ask yourself why I would even care with all the incredibly delicious French pastries everywhere. France has some of the best food/bread/pastries in the world, and when I first moved here I couldn’t get enough of those French goodies. After a while, my taste buds wanted something from back home… bagels. Take it from experience, no pain au chocolate or croissant will do when you have your heart set on a warm bagel that is crispy on the outside & has that perfectly textured inside.

The craving can at times become so strong that you start running around, trying just about everything and anything resembling a bagel in hopes that you might find something that comes close to satisfying your desire. It’s not one of my proudest moments, but I even began to think about taking a trip back home just to get a good bagel fix… that is, until I saw the airfare prices. That would have been one very expensive bagel… right?!

There are those of you who might be asking, aren’t bagels already in France? Yes, it’s true. You can even find so-called bagels in local French supermarkets. To those people, the totally addicted bagel lover like myself might say, you poor thing, you have never tasted the REAL thing. A hard or mushy piece of bland bread that has no real texture and a hole in the middle does not constitute a real bagel.

After searching high and low, and waiting way too many years, freshly baked New York bagels of many flavors have arrived in Paris. Gone are the days when I will have to witness shops in France pull bagels out of the freezer in supermarket packaging, shivering in horror as they pop them into the microwave, charging me a fortune.

Today, there are a few shops that are trying to make more of an effort in baking fresh bagels locally, but those that I have tasted, lacked the true authenticity of what I considered a real bagel. Some say it’s the water that makes them so good, others say it’s the special process… whatever it is, locating a place that makes a bagel just right has gotten easier in France… Bruegger’s has arrived!

BRUEGGER’S New York Style Bagels at the foot of the  Montparnasse Tower! Montparnasse – 11 rue de l’Arrivée 75015 – Paris, France -  Photo: Bellanda ®

BRUEGGER’S New York Style Bagels at the foot of the Montparnasse Tower! Montparnasse – 11 rue de l’Arrivée 75015 – Paris, France – Photo: Bellanda ®

Bruegger’s began more than thirty years ago in New York, and have over 300 bakeries in 26 states today. I love that they use the same time-honored methods of New York bagel bakeries by using flour, water, yeast, salt and malt. In 2011, they joined the GROUPE LE DUFF and in 2013 they began to bring their bagels to France. After a successful, start in Rennes, France, Bruegger’s is now in Paris, at the foot of the Montparnasse Tower. They are hoping to have around 40 bakeries across France in the next 5 years. *Yes, I just did a little happy dance.

I was filled with nervous expectations and hope when I walked into the bagel shop for the first time. Wide-eyed, I tried to soak it all in. Bruegger’s Paris has a New York loft style, with an industrial feel to it… so far so good!

BRUEGGER’S New York Style Bagels at the foot of the Montparnasse Tower! 11 rue de l’Arrivée 75015 – Paris, France – Photo: Bellanda ®

Immediately, I noticed all of the, oh so familiar, products from back home… Each time, I bring my Parisian-borne little ones there, their American side seems to take over as they are they are instantly drawn to the Epicerie. “Mommy, they have Fluff!”

BRUEGGER’S New York Style Bagels at the foot of the Montparnasse Tower! 11 rue de l’Arrivée 75015 – Paris, France – Photo: Bellanda ®

BRUEGGER’S New York Style Bagels at the foot of the Montparnasse Tower! 11 rue de l’Arrivée 75015 – Paris, France – Photo: Bellanda ®

I couldn’t have been happier when I read the Baked fresh… all day long sign. YES… They really seem to get the whole idea of what bagels are about! There’s nothing like eating freshly baked bagels at any time of the day.

Bruegger’s ships their dough over to France, and bakes their bagels in the exact same fashion as Bruegger’s in New York and across the United States. These bagels are truly the best I have ever had in Paris. Even though, they are a little far in distance from my district, I just can’t seem to get enough of them. But hey, I can’t complain because it’s much closer and cheaper than buying that airline ticket.

BRUEGGER’S New York Style Bagels at the foot of the Montparnasse Tower! 11 rue de l’Arrivée 75015 – Paris, France – Photo: Bellanda ®

After being greeted with warm friendly smiles, we chose the bagel bread, sandwich style, along with a side of chips or homemade coleslaw. I’m so glad that they told us about their house specialty ice-tea, made fresh each day. It has become a definite must with each visit.

Bruegger’s has many of the typical sandwiches that you would find back home, in addition to some new ones. At first, I was reluctant to taste what they called the Classic New Yorker Burger… in all of my years in New York, I never saw or even thought about throwing a burger inside a bagel. That said, I just had to try it. What a great surprise… it turned out to be one of my favorites. Go figure, a New York bagel with a French-American twist… nice touch!

BRUEGGER’S New York Style Bagels at the foot of the Montparnasse Tower! 11 rue de l’Arrivée 75015 – Paris, France – Photo: Bellanda ®

BRUEGGER’S New York Style Bagels at the foot of the Montparnasse Tower! 11 rue de l’Arrivée 75015 – Paris, France – Photo: Bellanda ®

During our latest visit, we discovered that Cinnamon Raisin bagels are now on the menu (Yay!), and whole wheat bagels will be added in the month of May. They’ve also added a brunch bagel served all day long. Memories of my egg bagel sandwich & coffee rituals before work or after a late night out are flooding in. This was one of my all-time favorites from back home, and I can’t wait to give it a try.

Ok, now for one of my other passions… REAL coffee. I always make room for a coffee, espresso, tea or one of their specialty drinks. There is a trained Barista on the premises who grinds the beans and makes your coffee upon command. What a nice surprise. In addition, their freshly baked muffins are to die for!

BRUEGGER’S New York Style Bagels at the foot of the Montparnasse Tower! 11 rue de l’Arrivée 75015 – Paris, France – Photo: Bellanda ®

BRUEGGER’S New York Style Bagels at the foot of the Montparnasse Tower! 11 rue de l’Arrivée 75015 – Paris, France – Photo: Bellanda ®

I don’t know about you… but no visit is complete, unless I can bring home a bag of 6 bagels. I’ve got the entire family addicted to bagels now. This makes the New Yorker in me smile. So, Mom… please send over my bagel slicer for my REAL bagels… I FINALLY need it!