Summertime and the shopping is easy.

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The living is easy in summer, so sings Ella Fitzgerald so very inspirational, and although no fish are jumping in Berlin, nor is any cotton high, but my daddy’s (almost) rich and my ma is definitely good looking, so I am in the good mood I’m supposed to be in. And what do (almost) rich father’s sons do on such a day in Berlin? They go shopping on Kurfürstendamm.

There is no better time to shop in summer than in the morning, when the temperatures are still low, when the morning dew has just disappeared, leaving the air soft, when hopes are still high (just like that Southern cotton) that this day may turn out just fantastic. Kurfürstendamm is just a short walk from my place in Charlottenburg, and so I strolled through streets that Christopher Isherwood might have taken too when he lived here in the 1920s, enjoying the architecture, watching people on their way to the office and goods being delivered, and decided to have a long coffee first, as I was very well aware that no fancy store opens before 10 a.m. I was the only one who took a seat at Reinhard’s at Berlin’s Hotel Kempinski, the one that Romy Schneider was staying in when she visited the town, I still wonder why, why would you miss all the delights of this time of day in the city, the plays of light and shadow, enchanting patterns on the facades, the volatile splendour of reflections on Saint Laurent’s logo, it will be long gone in afternoon, carpe diem, folks, I want to call out – but the only guy who seems to enjoy this place at this hour was the postman at Chanel. Oh well. They have no clients, but at least they’ve got mail.

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Interiors.

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Some people have an inner child that they allow to, well, come out every once in a while and play, just to make sure they stay human, these guys are to be congratulated, for their wisdom, humanity and charm, I, however, whose inner child has never been locked up, whose emotional intelligence might be the one of Methuselah but whose behaviour is rather Calvinistic, and I’m referring to Calvin from Calvin and Hobbes here, not to that repressed guy from Geneva, what am I to do? You cannot let out what’s already out, can you? So I had to come up with an alternative: I let my inner interior designer out, and I pamper him well. I frolic through stores, buy bowls, vases and pitchers from Royal Copenhagen or Lalique, overpriced flowers from fancy stores, those way cheaper tulips from your grocer won’t do sometimes, fruit and cookies and other stuff that just has to be remotely decorative to give me a thrill and there I go, a new arrangement on my Regency table, I’m happy as a child, sorry, as an interior designer and ready to cope with life, business and deadlines.

Delicatessen obsession.

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Last night, I had the best of nightmares, I know, this may sound oxymoronic, but I can’t put it otherwise. You see, in that dream I was back in Paris, wandering the food halls of La Grande Épicerie de Paris, frolicking from aisle to aisle, from sweet to sour, from bread and butter, butter in so many varieties, salted or left alone, from buffalo to goat milk, French or Italian, to cheese, round, square and triangular in shape, looking ever so perfect, as if it didn’t end up on my baguette to be devoured with a glass of Château Whatever-they-have, from Italian pasta in ever such beautifully designed packaging, the agony of deciding which looks best, which pasta in which box, to all this pâté, nothing but pâté from the far left to the far right of your eye, from green teas to black teas, from unknown niche people to Fortnum’s, Kusmi and Mariage Frères, how many more boxes of Queen Anne, Mirabeau and Prince Wladimir can I possibly buy, I’m asking myself while humming “Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme” in my head, or aloud, I don’t know, out of context obviously, but no, here they all come, and hey, this sage is really aromatic, I’m taking all they have, wondering what to do with it, browsing through recipes in my head while checking out the rest of the store, caviar, oysters and lobster galore, but I pass, there’s Nicaraguan coffee and Sicilian honey to discover, oh those bees must lead happy lives, I’m facing mouthwatering joy and total despair as my basket cannot hold all I want, whatever I do the pyramid of goods is falling apart, over and over again, spreading my stuff on the floor, hindering other people in shiny shoes from walking, kicking it away from me, none of these items were mine to keep, neither the buffalo butter from some place in Italy, nor the pâté I have chosen, not even the organic artichokes of incredible dimensions, and please don’t get me started on what they are doing to my selection of French mustard and marmalades (lemon, grapefruit, orange and lime). I woke up screaming, but, wow, it was good!

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Voguing through Paris.

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After the war, when fashion was given the New Look by Christian Dior, the world was given Robert Doisneau as a society and fashion photographer when Michel de Brunhoff, the editor in chief of Vogue Paris, had the brilliant idea to hire him. I had not known about this collaboration and would never have seen the splendid photographs that illustrate post war Parisian high society life, I would only have known of his famous shot of the kissing couple in front of Paris’ Hôtel de Ville, I had the poster in my kitchen for crying out loud, if Flammarion hadn’t published this wonderful book. It shows it all: aristocratic weddings, parties, receptions, men in tails, women in ball gowns, the rich and famous, elegant home stories, restaurants filled with celebrities, Hélène Rochas, Jacques Fath, Jean Cocteau, Orson Welles and Elsa Maxwell, all in black and white and not once do you miss a single colour. Robert Doisneau captures it all in shades of grey. Don’t you dare buy it and let it gather dust on your coffee table, open it, let your eyes travel and take the most wonderful journey back in time.

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A marriage of convenience.

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Frederic II of Prussia was also known as Frederic the Great, although his wife, Queen Elizabeth Christine thought he was not great at all, she used to call him a “Winzling”, a midget, not so much because she wanted to point out his emotional shortcomings but because she was taller by a head. Frederic didn’t care much about her either, mostly because he was gay and had only married her to please his father, hoping, once a married man, he would be left alone to his own devices, and left Elizabeth Christine in Charlottenburg while he moved to Sanssouci, the palace he had built all to himself. Voltaire was allowed to visit and stay for months, his wife was not allowed one single visit. But don’t feel sorry for her, Charlottenburg is quite nice a place to be left behind.

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Simone Signoret, Yves Montand and I.

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Paris is known for its lovers. There were plenty over the centuries as you can probably guess, dozens and hundreds, more or less famous ones, some even made it on the screen, Ninotchka and Count Léon d’Algout, for example. My favourite couple, however, is a real life one that made it into the movies nonetheless: Simone Signoret and Yves Montand, these glorious French actors. They made fabulous films, they drank and smoked, she won an Oscar, he betrayed her with Marilyn Monroe, and most importantly, they had an apartment on 15, Place Dauphine, on the loveliest square in all of Paris, it’s kind of secluded, but you always sense where you are: right in the middle of Paris. Each time I’m there, I pay them a visit, come rain or shine, I stroll by the Seine or cross the Tuileries, depends on where I come from, Rive Gauche or Rive Droite, I cross the Pont Neuf, my favourite bridge in the world, as the square lies on an island in the Seine, the Île de la Cité, just like Notre Dame, and there I am, happy as a child, lingering for quite some time, it’s a perfect spot for a coffee, too. The old chestnut trees were replaced some years ago, at first it looked a bit sad, these little ones couldn’t measure up to the old ones who might still have seen Simone and Yves leaving the house for cigarettes or an invitation to dinner some place fancy, but they’ve grown a bit, and the last time I visited Place Dauphine, I started looking forward to growing old with them.

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