Together, We Stand Strong…

Together, we stand Strong... Bellanda ®

Together, we stand Strong…
Bellanda ®

It’s been exactly 2 weeks since the attacks in Paris brutally reminded us of the changing world in which we live. It’s a world where children are now exposed to things we’ve tried to protect them from, and lives are taken in the most cowardly of ways.

Today, President Hollande has asked everyone to unite and display the French flag in remembrance of those lost in the Paris attacks. To many of us, such a request would seem only natural. As Americans, we proudly display our flag every chance we get, but France’s love for their flag has been a bumpy one. The French flag has evolved, and has taken many forms since the days of Kings and the Revolution. It wasn’t until 1794 that the Tricolore as we know it came into existence. It has since been readopted several times.

Over recent years, the French Tricolore has increasingly been associated with far-right groups, like Le Pen’s National Front party. To distance themselves from the views of such groups, many French have backed off from displaying the flag. Political parties, like that of President Hollande, have also shied away from its use.

The President’s request to display French flags is a big deal, and I couldn’t agree with him more. It’s times like this that everyone needs to come together, breaking through political differences… after all, they’re all French!

As I walked through the streets today, it was obvious that no matter what political party they were from, flags were everywhere. I’m proud of how this country has pulled together to remember what they have in common: liberty, equality and fraternity.

Together, we are far stronger than those who would like to do us harm…

Stand Strong Paris - Bellanda ®

Stand Strong Paris –
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!

Bellanda at International Women’s Day Party

IMPORTANT UPDATE

There has been a HUGE GLITCH in tomorrow evening’s Art Expo at The International Women’s Day Event. There was a last-minute problem with the venue & the Event organizers had to scramble around to find a new venue last night. Unfortunately, the new venue is not conducive to hosting an art expo.
***I will still be there, but without my paintings. Please join me for drinks at the new venue. It would be great to get together.
NEW VENUE: Bastille, FLAG CAFE.
http://buff.ly/1dlb3LG

For those of you who are looking for something to do this Friday, please join me as I put on one of my many “hats” – that of the artist. I’d love to see you there.

Atelier Bellanda: Oil Paintings, Photography & Mixed Media

BELLANDA EXPO PROMO

Please join me, my paintings & more at the International Women’s Day Party!

For more information/free registration, please click here:

http://buff.ly/1dlb3LG

***I will post photos in the very near future for those of you who are unable to make it to the event.

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Returning to the Source: Starting Anew

Returning to the Source: Starting Anew...  Bellanda ®

Returning to the Source:
Starting Anew…
Bellanda ®

There is something about starting a new year that makes many evaluate the year that has just gone by. Over the last few weeks, I have heard and read an overwhelming amount of information about starting anew, broken promises, hopes, dreams, and about updating last year’s resolutions. Our eight year old, who happens to live a rather blessed life filled with love and activities of his choosing, cried on New Year’s Eve as he said, “I haven’t profited enough from 2013.”

I realize that a reflection like this is unusual for a boy his age, but he has touched upon something that many adults feel and express at the end of each new year and around birthdays. I’ve never quite understood this. Are these kind of reflections due to fear of the unknown? Regrets of the past? Hopes for a better future? Or is it something more… something more profound about man’s inability to feel truly happy? Could it be that man is driven by a desire for better and for more? If this is the case, what would happen if man was given all of time they desired? Would they finally be happy?

It is wonderful to take time at the start of a new year to evaluate the lives presently being lived, but I can’t help but wonder why so many people wait until this time of the year to awaken only to get lost again so quickly. We are given the gift of life, and with each breath the capacity to make things happen. If you are one of the lucky ones, born into a place where choice is an option and your gender, skin color or political and cultural affiliation don’t limit you to a stand still, then you are indeed blessed. You are the master of your future, if you choose to be so.

Perhaps if we stopped running around, trying to do everything, and started enjoying the simple moments we would realize how lucky we are. I know that this is more of a lifetime resolution than a New Year’s resolution, but it is also one that will help us feel more fulfilled in life. Finding something in each day that makes you smile, like a child’s laughter or taking the time to sip your favorite coffee instead of gulping it down while doing a million things at the same time takes no more than a couple of minutes, but the benefits are endless.

We are the masters of own little universe, whether we believe it or not, so we don’t have to wait for these precious moments to happen. We can make them happen by simply smiling at a stranger, or holding the door for them and wishing them a nice day. Naive? Maybe, but it is enough to bring someone else a gift and in doing so we are often rewarded by this exchange. 

I’ve been told on many occasions that I am lucky to live here in Paris, and that I should be happy. I agree that this is indeed a wonderful city, but being happy is more than just living in a particular place. It is about taking time for those you love and care about and about making choices that best meet your needs and passions intelligently. It is about taking the time to enjoy precious moments in between the rest of the things that need to get done. Most importantly, it is about finding positives in the midst of the roller coaster life so many of us live.

As some of you already know, I have been ill for almost two years. From my many activities, you might also know that I haven’t let this make me bitter or stop me completely. I’m often asked how I remain so positive in the midst of hospitals, doctors, treatments and the unknown, as I await what has been a very long and complicated final diagnosis. My answer is always, “never giving up on hope.” There comes a time when one must accept their limitations and then find a way to adapt so that you can do what you would like to do regardless of them. Accepting one’s imperfections while learning from our mistakes and the things we cannot control also helps. It is important to realize that by wasting energy on negativity and anger we only hurt ourselves, wasting precious time that could be used for something good.

At times I have had to slow down, but I’ve always searched to find a positive in each situation… even if I’ve had to dig a little deeper. Everything is about choice. Being forced to take time to slow down for health reasons, can mean cuddling on the couch with my little ones as they tell me about their day. When we think about it, as long as we are alive, there is hope and a chance to find a positive. Yes, death is something we all struggle with, but once the immediate shock and pain of the loss of a loved one has passed, it is possible to turn and focus your energy on feeling blessed to have had that person in your life, even if only for a short time during their passage here on earth. In doing so, they will live on in us and in our memories forever as you take that person with you.

All of this will help us deal with our own inevitable death. Living life’s precious moments, telling those you love how you feel so in the end our regrets are limited. The feeling that we have indeed profited from life and our loved ones is primordial.

As each new year comes around, I smile. I know that I am among the fortunate and I am thankful. I have lived another day, let alone another year. I am not sad, nor afraid of each year that passes. Yes, I am another year older, and wrinkles do come with age, but oh how lucky I am to have the chance that so many don’t get. Age is not a curse but a gift, and I’d rather avoid the alternative as long as possible. Once you get the hang of finding something positive in your everyday life and in negative situations that come your way, you’d be amazed how easy it is to do.

So, if I must make a resolution, it will be to continue doing what I am doing… mistakes and all. They are what make us learn and grow. I will continue sharing this positive attitude with those I love in hopes that they might pick up this trait. When my time does eventually come, as it will with us all, I will have no regrets. I will have lived my life as best I could, making sure that those I love know how very precious they are to me.

Last Days of 2013 in Paris… Thank You For Making This An Awesome Year!

I wasn’t sure what to expect when I began this Paris expat blog a little more than a year ago, but we now have 5100+ followers with visitors from 108 different countries across the planet. This has been an incredible blogging journey and I hope that you will accept my heartfelt thanks for such a wonderful reception.  I had heard that the blogging community was strong, but I never imagined that I would gain a blogging family who would also interact with me on Social and Professional Networks like Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn. What a lovely surprise. You’ve helped make 2013 extraordinary.

The Last Days of 2013

Paris: The Last Days of 2013
Photo: Bellanda ®

I look forward to sharing 2014 and Paris with you.

Bellanda ® Photo : ©2014 Bellanda  All rights reserved.

Bellanda ®
Photo: Bellanda ©2014 
All rights reserved.

Do Parisians Really Need A Rule Book On Metro Etiquette?

PARIS METRO

PARIS METRO

Recently, the Paris Transit Authorities published a new rule book in order for Parisians to act more civil on the metro. These rules are written in an old-fashioned and comical way, and are accompanied by humorous sketches. To give you a little idea of their content, here is a rough translation of some of the rules. (The full French version can be found here: http://www.chervoyageurmoderne.fr/Manuel.pdf )

Rule N° 1 tells Parisians to be courteous. It reminds them that the enormous no-smoking sign on the metro platform is not a piece of artwork but a sign forbidding smoking.

Rule N° 2 tells Parisians to be helpful. It reminds them to offer help to a person wearing Bermuda shorts while holding a map in one hand and their head in the other. *Try not to be offended by the whole Bermuda shorts thing… Perhaps you will be more successful than I was.

Rule N° 4 also tells Parisians to be helpful. This time, it reminds them to hold the exit door for the person behind them. It continues to say that in life one should never miss the occasion to cross paths with someone who might give them a pretty look.

Rule N° 9 shows a drawing of a man dressed in old-fashioned clothing looking at the woman sitting across from him with binoculars. The rule simply states to be courteous. It warns them not to stare at people, even if she has killer eyes. Ummm… She? I’m going to let that one pass by reminding myself that this is obviously one of those French kind of things to say.

Rule N° 10 says to be courteous. It reminds Parisians not to provoke a duel with someone who has accidentally stepped on their foot.

Rule  11 shows a drawing of a sweaty French man holding the pole above his head, so as not to fall. Sweat drips down from his armpit onto some poor business man who is trying to protect his head with his briefcase.  The rule tells Parisians that on hot days, they should keep their arms down along their sides and to try to hold the pole from below and not above.

Although I find some of this rule book amusing, I believe it to be a rather ingenious way to push the focus and or blame on Parisians so that we don’t look at what is truly making the metro ride unpleasant for many. Parisians seem to be an easy target due to the existence of a stereotype that says they are rude.  I’m not even sure where that came from. Perhaps back in the day that might have been the case, but the Parisians I see today are modern, worldly and come from all walks of life.  They are a far cry from how they are being portrayed. No, not all Parisians are perfect. That said, neither are all tourists… but really? Are we at the point that necessitates taking time, energy and money to publish an online metro rule book for Parisians?

I am not a true Parisian, nor do I claim to be, but in this case I feel that they are getting a bad rap. After living in Paris for 11 years, I have taken the metro more times than I can count. I have always been an observer, and can attest to seeing Parisians help tourists clutching maps, among other lovely gestures like holding doors and giving up their seats for the handicapped, elderly and pregnant women. I have also seen Parisians jump to the aid of people with a baby carriage or heavy suitcase as they attempted to climb the metro stairs. In France, chivalry is far from dead.

These metro rules are all well and good. They can even be taken in a fun and light way, but somehow while reading through them I couldn’t help but look at the big picture. Let’s just say that when my naive self imagines a perfect metro commute, it doesn’t include any of these so-called rules.

My perfect imaginary world includes a metro station where I do not have to let trains pass during rush hour just to push my way on board one of the later trains. This perfect metro car would have enough room for everyone to fit inside comfortably, and have a ventilation system and/or light air conditioning so that we wouldn’t even have to worry about someone sweating on us as they reached up to hold the pole. The metro car doors in my imaginary world, open and close automatically with a lovely and calming ding-dong-ding chime so that I could keep my zen moment alive. As I dream on, I imagine working escalators throughout a clean smelling network of tunnels. Automated metro exit doors would give me enough time to pass through with my wheeled briefcase and then close softly behind me. *Sigh… if only.

I have read many articles about the Paris transit system’s plans and about how they are currently working on building a better metro system. Some of these articles even talked about adding over 100 miles of new metro lines. Wouldn’t it be great if their dream metro system and mine somehow merged into one at some point in the very near future? I don’t know about you, but that would put me in such a good mood that I’d even smile more than I do. Who knows? Perhaps smiling would even be as contagious as yawning!

Do Parisians really need a rule book on metro etiquette, or do they just need a more pleasant environment to travel around Paris? What are your thoughts?