…and then, there’s Dutch coffee.

Luxembourg is a very important country to me, first of all because I spent my utterly happy childhood there, and then because it’s the place where my friend Katja lives—she’s also very important to me—which makes the place a source of constant joy. Each time she visits, she brings delicacies from beyond the German border, from a country near enough to France, Belgium, and The Netherlands to benefit from their culinary heritage. There’s Rieslingspasteitchen, Moselle wine, the best eaux de vie in the world, Framboise being my favourite, fine confiserie and patisserie from Namur, suppliers to His Royal Highness The Grand Duke, and then, most importantly, there’s coffee from Douwe Egberts, available in any supermarket in the entire Grand Duchy, which makes this country paradise on earth to me. Don’t ask me why, but Dutch coffee is so much better than any of the stuff you get in Germany, however high-toned the store, I just had a cup, au lait, this time, I know what I’m talking about. And Katja, if you read this, please come back soon and bring some more…

The Comedians and I.

In the summer of 1980, after having visited friends of my parents in New York and San Francisco, my mother and I sent my father back off to Europe and continued our journey to Port-au-Prince, Haiti, where we stayed at the Grand Hotel Oloffson, a 19th-century Gothic gingerbread mansion, set in a lush tropical garden, a place once described as the darling of the theatre people, the literary set and newspaper men. And a literary place it was indeed. The moment we sat down on the Hotel’s beautiful porch to have a cold drink, we were directly transported into a novel, all of a sudden we were part of the set of Graham Greene’s The Comedians. None other than Petit Pierre approached us, ever so elegantly, just like in the book, wearing a fine double-breasted suit despite the Caribbean summer heat, his perfectly knotted tie seemed to be mocking the indolent temperatures, a walking cane with a silver knob gave him even more grandezza, as he strutted from table to table, looking for some material for his columns. Of course it was not Petit Pierre, but Aubelin Jolicœur, so my mother explained to me, as I at the age of 12 was not that familiar with Graham Greene’s work, the Haitian journalist and columnist that was the inspiration for Graham Greene’s character who then took a place at our table, started chatting with my mother, even flirting a little bit, totally ignoring me, leaving me to sip my icy lemonades for ever and ever. And so, before he took us to his gallery with Haitian naive paintings, in a black limousine steered by one of his sons, I started to write one of the hotel postcards to my best friend Daniel in Luxembourg. For some reasons, I never sent it off but took it home with me, as a souvenir maybe, just like my mother took one of the ashtrays. Looking at it now, it makes me smile that while somebody taken out of a famous novel was sitting at my very table, I had no other things to tell him about than the beautiful hotel pool and its cool water. But I can somehow get my 12-year-old me – the pool situation was gorgeous indeed. I must return soon, this time with the book…

An apple cake of dubious origin.

Luxembourg is known for gathering politicians from the European Community, some tax-friendly banking and its Grand Duke. It’s much lesser known for its flour. Why that is, I cannot tell you. It’s perfectly fine flour. Admittedly, neither wholemeal nor organic, at least the packaging gives no indication of it, just a fancy crown, meaning it’s of somewhat aristocratic origin, maybe the Grand Duke has a mill, who knows, Louis XVI was into crafts too, he loved making keys, metalworking or milling, where’s the difference, anyway, I’m very fond of this flour, however politically incorrect, and as for organic baking ingredients and political correctness, my apples take full responsability, they’re totally organic, all seven of them, and they take the lion’s share of that cake anyway, so it probably won’t pose a health hazard. Alerted as I was, I tasted the rum at large, just to make sure its aroma would complement the other condiments, vanilla pulp and cinnamon, finding myself totally at ease with my partially conventional, inorganic and man-made apple cake. Totally.

Living on Memory Lane.

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There are a few pics I keep posting and re-posting on Instagram: a certain photo of Coco Chanel, taken in the 1930s at La Pausa by Roger Schall, Mademoiselle wearing trousers and a ravishing custom-fit little nothing of a cashmere sweater, very près du corps, some paintings, Vermeer, Franz Kline and a certain Picasso, with Marie-Thérèse Walter on it, you surely know it, it’s very popular, my Royal Copenhagen china, and then there’s a photo of my mother, taken by my father in 1977, in the little front garden of our townhouse in Luxembourg, at a place I dearly loved, we spent nothing but happy times there, my mother’s wearing Yves Saint Laurent Rive Gauche on it, you can see the prêt-à-porter after-effects of his iconic Russian haute couture collection from 1976, on the other side of the street is the house of my friends Laurence and Françoise, you can’t see it, but I know it’s there, just opposite, on the right you would see an apartment building, a big brutal concrete cube, with another cube inside as an entrance hall, this one in posh marble, that’s where Anne and Bob lived, Bob had his room painted in dark blue, with white furniture as a contrast, I loved that, and we had the same shirt, checked, in different sizes though as he was way younger than I, two or three years, when you’re nine years old that matters a lot, my best friend Daniel lived on the same street, too, but a bit off, more to the side of avenue du X septembre, we lived closer to avenue Guillaume. Our house doesn’t exist anymore, after we moved out it was torn down, together with most of our direct neighbours’ houses, to make room for some résidence, some of those apartment buildings named after Napoleon or whoever they thought appropriate, so sad, it was so lovely, the balcony on the first floor was all covered with wine, the grapes were edible but tiny and very sour, loved them anyway, the wallpaper in the hall and all up the staircase to the second floor was black, with huge white roses, not totally white, some of the petals were pale pink, the leaves and stalks were celadon green, a very Marie-Antoinette-ish colour combination, the tiles on the floor were beautiful, a typical Belle Époque pattern, the house was built in the 1910s, the banisters were somewhat gothic, some dark wood, can’t quite recall it, at least not exactly, nobody ever took a photo of the stairs, not of these details, but I somehow captured them in my mind, I must haven taken thousands of mental pictures, it’s all there in my mind, all of it, although I couldn’t quite make a sketch of it. As you might have guessed by now, this photo does not only show my beautifully dressed mother, it represents the happiest years of my childhood, it triggers all kind of happy memories, and I will post it over and over again when I feel like it. I hope you won’t mind.

Shocking grey.

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Farrow & Ball. One doesn’t need to explain this English brand’s achievements. They psychoanalysed our taste, discovered our need to be perceived as subtle and refined, as some spun eccentric, and came up with colours, well, not colours, tones, tones that were completely new to us, perfectly indescribable to the human eye, even to theirs. How else could you explain tones being named Dead Salmon, Elephant’s Breath or Mouse’s Back (the latter being Mousey’s choix du cœur). Pitch Black, however, made my friend Katja from Luxembourg lose her mind while applying it. It really wasn’t what she expected at all, it turned out light grey, far from anything black, it didn’t even try to make a pitch to appear black. So she rushed to the store to ask for help, wondering if she had turned colour blind, tone blind at the very least. But the shop’s sales personnel were developing the same tone blindness after trying it on an Eames chair in their showroom, just imagine, Eames being used as a guinea pig. That chair didn’t turn out black either, just shocking grey. So they phoned Farrow & Ball, the headquarters based in Paris, as Luxembourg hasn’t one of its own, just the European Parliament and a Grand Duke named Henri, a Nassau, which makes him a real Royal Highness, not like this Albert guy from Monaco who’s not royal at all, just serene, anyway, Katja and the people in the shop were all ready to cause a commotion, ready to have the colour’s name changed to Deceptive Black. Farrow & Ball, however, stayed calm. Wait for the colour to dry, they told Luxembourg. Aha. And so they did. And both that Eames chair in the shop and Katja’s Louis Something commode turned out wonderfully black, sorry, pitch black.

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Rue Albert 1er, the beginning.

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My mother made me her fashion consultant when I was eight. When I wasn’t in school or out with my best friend Daniel, I would spend most of my time with her in Luxembourg’s boutiques. There was Maison Moderne on Grand’ Rue, owned by Mr Cohen, a charming, bearded guy, very slim and refined, always with a pipe in his mouth. The fifth floor of his department store was all mine, I picked out my cotton velvet jeans by Michel Bachoz there, I had them in various colours: in bordeaux, brown, navy and cognac. The third floor was my mother’s domaine. And I was completely fine with what Mr Cohen would pick out for my mother, like in 1977 this ensemble by Saint Laurent Rive Gauche, which showed the prêt-à-porter after effects of Yves Saint Laurent’s iconic Russian haute couture collection from 1976. My father, very much in love with my mother, took a photo of her wearing it, in the little front garden of our town house on Rue Albert 1er. Happy Times.