Posted by / Category Travel /

It all started when I found a Mongolian minister in my kitchen. Unbeknownst to me until a couple of hours before, my husband had invited some high-ranking officials to discuss yet another important business deal.

P1130883The whole episode had sent me into panic mode: what type of food would I give them? What did Mongols like? I had no idea. I therefore decided to play the French card with some champagne and canapés as aperitifs, and the menu was all about fish and colourful ingredients. You see, I like colourful, fresh dishes: there was samphire and tomatoes, sweet potatoes and French mayonnaise, salmon and cod, prawns and crabs, and rouille and mustard too. And the dessert was all about tartes tatins, eclairs au chocolat and fraisiers. They seemed a bit surprised to have fish, and I am not sure that they warmed up to samphire. They clearly preferred the lovely baguette hastily bought at my local French baker. But the desserts were a massive hit. To be fair, I have yet to meet anyone who doesn’t like tarte tatin. Whatever the nationality, some things never change.

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Posted by / Category Cultural Differences, London /

Let me be clear here: I do not wish I were a guy in the physical sense. But in daily life, I find being a woman deeply frustrating. And if, like me, you happen to be French, then you have double the fun. What am I talking about? Well, hear me out before judging me too harshly:

1. As a woman, you are supposed to be soft, compliant, understanding, maternal, patient and a good listener. And that’s just to name a few. The thing is, we are just human. Just like everybody else, come to think of it;

2. I am sick and tired of ‘doing well for a woman’. What does it even mean? Give me a break;

3. I am not your Darling, Sweetie or Honey. Never have. Never will. Sorry;

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Posted by / Category Looking Good /

I have passed yet another milestone in my journey to middle age. What am I talking about? I know that you aren’t supposed to talk about these things but do you know what? Sod it, I think that we should. And I am in a foul mood anyway. So what happened? I had my first mammogram. There is it.

To cut a long story short, I was advised to have one every 18 months to two years between 40 and 50, and one every year after that. I have seen too many friends and relatives suffering from breast cancer, and I took my doctor’s advice very seriously. Even if my insurance only reimburses the cost of a mammogram after 45, which means that I will have to cover the costs for now, I thought that it was money well spent. Obviously it doesn’t mean that I liked the whole experience. But I did what I had to do.

I was incredibly grumpy. When does being a woman get any easier? On top of (in no particular order) having our periods, bikini waxes, hurting like mad when we give birth, being less paid than our male colleagues even when more qualified, taking care of the family and (last but not least) not being able to pee while standing, we have to have our boobs flattened between two plastic sheet? Damn it. So unfair.

I know that it is a first-world problem, and I know that I am lucky to be able to have great healthcare on tap. But I couldn’t help feeling a bit, well, miffed.

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It’s a post about boobs. What did you expect? Continue Reading

Posted by / Category Cultural Differences /

The problem with being a woman is that it is sometimes frowned upon to take the initiative. Don’t get me wrong, I know that it can work, but it is all about not looking too pushy or too desperate. I must admit that we French remain quite conservative, and we still expect men to talk to a woman first. In short, as far as I am concerned, it is all about making it look like he took the initiative when in fact you have subtly paved the way.

I know that it all sounds a bit complicated, but it is all a question of strategy. Over the years, I have come to the conclusion that any woman can go out with a guy she fancies if she trusts her instincts, and manages to read him a bit. If you don’t believe me, just go back to your French classics and read Dangerous Liaisons again. Just to clarify, I am not saying that any woman can get a guy to marry her on the spot, but that igniting a spark is, in fact, easy. Let me break it down for you.

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Posted by / Category London, Looking Good /

Whatever our nationality, we women usually have a much tougher deal than men. Seriously, why do we have so much pressure on our shoulders? And how are we supposed to do everything we have to do (kids, house, looking good, working, cooking…) without being overwhelmed? I simply don’t know. In fact, I must admit that I am exhausted most of the time.

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Yes, I look this good all the time, I promise…

Take for instance the fact that we have to look good when we go out, and pretend that we did it effortlessly. What a nightmare! I might be French, but I am not good at preparing myself. I could sort of manage in my twenties because I didn’t need to do much, but now I just can’t. It’s just too much hassle. I don’t have the patience, and I happen to be a bit of a tomboy. If you bumped into me on the street, I would probably be wearing my black running gear or my torn jeans. Not very French, I know! That’s just me.

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Me on a regular day

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Posted by / Category Cultural Differences /

What do you do if you are sitting opposite a couple having an argument in a restaurant? This was the dilemma I faced over the weekend. I was there before them. For once, I was on my own, waiting for my daughter to finish yet another competition. They sat down in front of me at the communal table. He ordered a burger, and she ordered a couple of juices. It should have set alarm bells ringing in my head. A woman who is juicing is bound to be in a bad mood.

I can’t remember how it all started but to cut a long story short she started shouting at him because she felt he was being too negative. She had just had a business idea, and was feeling ‘inspired’. Except that he criticised her idea a bit too harshly. She couldn’t deal with his negativity, she said that ‘he was killing ideas before they were even born’. She didn’t expect to have to deal with such a negative attitude in her relationship. She had already enough to deal with at work. And she added that ‘new ideas were like babies, they were fragile’.

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Posted by / Category Cultural Differences /

Here is my latest column…Sit down, have a coffee, and enjoy without moderation!

It’s a universal truth that the same causes produce the same effects. If you keep doing what you are doing, chances are that the same thing will keep happening to you time and time again. So why exactly do we keep doing it?

We French are especially good at following unwritten social rules – take my word for it! For us, the dating game is all about going out with someone who shares similar values but also a similar background. I wonder if this is because we don’t like taking risks? That’s just who we are, I suppose.

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Me writing the column…

To make matters even worse, most of us women have been brought up listening to fairy-tales. And some of us are still waiting for their very own Prince Charming. Get real, girls: no guy is going to sweep you off your feet on a white steed; sorry, I just had to break it to you. The thing is, I am convinced that when you break out of your usual pattern, you discover more about yourself. A different partner can bring out sides of your personality that you didn’t even know existed. And maybe, just maybe, broadening your horizons was exactly what you needed.

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Posted by / Category London /

I don’t know where all of you are right now, but you totally need to come to London if you can. London this June is the world’s best-kept secret. It’s not too warm, the light is perfect, and the parks are in full bloom.

And the food, ah, the food… Don’t believe anyone who tells you that the food in the UK is horrible. London is simply buzzing, and last time I went to France everything was closed -just saying. Last week I was invited to try out Ceru at the French Riviera near City Hall. There was something about the setting (think palm trees, comfy beds and flamingos), and the food that made me want to come back as soon as possible. And we are talking about street food here, but street food with a twist: tasty, fresh and well-prepared, and…cheap.

The thing is, when someone talks about street food, it reminds me of a summer in Bali where I wanted to impress my then boyfriend (now husband), and tried out some street food (chicken satay from memory) in Denpasar night market. Let’s just say that I ended up spending the night in the bathroom, and swore that I would never, ever, make the same mistake again (ah, memories!). The worst was having to pretend that everything was fine (as you have to do at the start of a relationship) when everything was clearly not fine. You all know the feeling, right? Ah, the things we have to do sometimes!

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With @evglamazon

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Posted by / Category Cultural Differences /

There is something I have been meaning to tell you for quite some time. I have kept it under wraps for a few months. I suppose it was only a matter of time before you were going to find out anyway, so it is probably better for me to reveal it upfront.

Don’t worry, it’s nothing too heavy or too serious. It is just that I am sick and tired of being told that I am mad, or depressed, or in the middle of my very own midlife crisis, and as a result I tend not to talk about it.

So here it is: I am an ultra runner.

There you go. It’s out there. Are you still here? Are you going to lecture me or cut me off? Let me know.

Last time I told a friend, he never talked to me again. He said something like ‘most runners have mental issues, and are using running to manage their condition’. What a shitty comment! Because if running helps someone who is depressed, then surely it’s a good thing, right? That said, I don’t think that I am depressed anyway (surely I would know if I were?). So why did he have this urge to judge me? I simply don’t get it. I am just me.

Running feels completely natural to me. And before you ask, I am not a champion or anything. In fact, I don’t care about times and races. Of course, I have done (and still do) the occasional 10k, half, marathon or ultra. But I never win (if you absolutely need numbers -and I know that some of you do-I usually am in the top 10-15%). But the thing is, I just want to finish and enjoy the journey. To me, running is the purest way of going from A to B. I don’t care about the rest, I think that it just makes things unnecessarily complicated. And most of the time I run on my own anyway.

How did it all happen? I don’t know. It was always there, I suppose, and I didn’t want to see it. When I was around 9, my family used to spend a lot of time in remote piece of forest we owned. As I was finding it incredibly boring, I used to go back home running and walking along the narrow road. Initially with my mum, then on my own. It was about 20km from where we lived. We were going there several times a week.

As a student, I once did a marathon in Vexin – a beautiful region South of Paris. At the end of the competition, the bus that should have taken us back to our starting point had broken down. Instead of patiently waiting, I ran back. It should have rung a bell. It didn’t. I didn’t think much of it, really, because it felt completely normal. In fact, I completely forgot about it, started a job and a family, and became fat (sorry, I am telling it as it is: as explained in my last post, it is my French side).

Of course I tried to go and run again a few times over the last 20 years or so, but I didn’t really like the way others were running, and it made me feel uncomfortable because I felt that I had to comply with some unwritten rules. The thing is, in Paris or in London, if you run, you need to wear flashy colours and expensive pieces of equipment. You need an iPod with adequate playlists, and of course a garmin. You need to shout it from the rooftops from Day 1, and devise a robust training plan. Oh, and if you want to be taken seriously you also need to discuss your injuries, or where you hurt. That’s what makes a serious runner. What is even better is to post your PBs everywhere, and possibly subscribe to a site that will keep a public record of them.

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Posted by / Category Cultural Differences /

Today I started to reflect on my writing journey. As you know, I am starting to get published here and there, which feels great, but there is one feedback I keep getting: apparently, my writing is too direct. As in: too in your face. Here is a short selection of the comments I had to deal with recently:

“Can Muriel tone it down a bit?”

“Your words are too strong – this is too negative ”

“This is far too cynical. Can we soften it a bit?”

“Again, too harsh”

“That’s not very nice”

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