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Much More Than Mother’s Day

Le Train Bleu Restaurant, Gare de Lyon in Paris
Le Train Bleu Restaurant, Gare de Lyon


Because my diet prohibits me from indulging in bread of any kind (The Whole 30), I am disappointed that I cannot try the award-winning baguette from “Au Levain des Pyrénées.” The bakery is owned by Tharshan Selvarajah, who was recently awarded the Grand Prix de la Baguette de Tradition Française de la Ville de Paris on its 30th anniversary (44, rue des Pyrénées in the 20th arrondissement).

Tharshan Selvarajah winner of the Best Baguette

Out of the 126 baguettes that were selected for the competition, Selvarajah’s baguette was chosen as the best and awarded the Grand Prize, which includes a cash prize of 4,000€. As a special bonus, and for the first time, Selvarajah will supply bread to the Elysée Palace for one year.

A total of 176 baguettes were submitted for the contest, 126 were selected based on specific criteria such as appearance, baking quality, crumb consistency, smell, and taste. The jury, chaired by Olivia Polski, Deputy Mayor of Paris in charge of Commerce and Crafts, was composed of mostly of professionals.

After the competition, the remaining baguettes were donated to the association La Chorba to benefit the homeless. Selvarajah received his award during the bread festival on the Parvis de Notre-Dame on Saturday.

The 10 best bakers of the competition were:

1. Tharshan Selvarajah – “Au Levain des Pyrénées” 44 rue des Pyrénées (20th)
2. Thierry Guyot ” Boulangerie-pâtisserie Guyot ” – 28 rue Monge (5e)
3. Jocelyn Lohezic ” Maison Lohezic ” – 143 rue de Courcelles (17th)
4. Benjamin Turquier ” Tout Autour du Pain ” – 134 rue de Turenne (3e)
5. Florian Bleas ” Aux Délices de Vaugirard ” 48 rue Madame (6e)
6. Frank Tombarel ” Le Grenier de Félix ” – 64 avenue Félix Faure (15th)
7. Kilani Ounissi ” Boulangerie Kilani ” – 191 rue du faubourg Saint-Antoine (11e)
8. Maxime Julien ” Les Saveurs de Lévis ” – 41 rue de Lévis (17th)
9. Mohkam Karoui ” Le Temps d’une Gourmandise ” – 94 boulevard de Port-Royal (5e)
10. Kouni Elayeb ” Le Délice de Bagnolet ” – 42 boulevard Mortier (20th)

Have fun tasting them and let me live vicariously through you!


Almost every day I say to my daughter, “I want your life.” Last week she returned from 10 days in Egypt visiting all the most important temples and historic sites with an illustrious group of about 200 of the world’s most influential people, as well as some of the richest. She was one of the very lucky ones to be invited despite her more normal and less influential status. But trips like this are not unusual for her to have the chance. As the old saying goes, “It’s all about who you know.” In fact, her calendar stays pretty booked up with such excursions—the kind that are life-changing.

A Temple in Egypt, Photo by Erica Simone

A Temple in Egypt, Photo by Erica Simone

Erica Simone at the Sphynx

Erica Simone at the Sphynx

During her time in Egypt, this very influential group was amazingly able to secure several of the important temples in which to hold private dinners, as well as the Pyramids, specially lit just for the occasion. Can you imagine?

Dinner at a Temple in Egypt, Photo by Erica Simone

Dinner at a Temple in Egypt, Photo by Erica Simone

Dinner at the Pyramids, Photo by Erica Simone

Dinner at the Pyramids, Photo by Erica Simone

Her description of the adventure: “Epic!”

Just a bit of circus-like entertainment in the desert, Photo by Erica Simone

Just a bit of circus-like entertainment in the desert, Photo by Erica Simone

We had booked tickets to see the Ramses the Great and the Gold of the Pharaohs exhibition at La Villette (on until September 6, 2023) long before her trip. Then I realized that she might think it a bit lame after having visited the real things.

“Au Contraire.” The exhibition is the kind in which you can spend either an hour or a lifetime depending on your interest in the lives of the Pharaohs, their families, and the Egyptians of more than 1200 years before Christ was born. Imagine life in Egypt more than 3200 years ago! Erica admitted that her trip to Egypt really sparked her interest in that civilization and the exhibition just heightened it.

Ramses the Great and the Gold of the Pharaohs Exhibition

Ramses the Great and the Gold of the Pharaohs Exhibition

The Pharaoh, Ramses II, was one of the greatest builders of temples of ancient Egypt, Abu Simbel being among them. This exhibition features more than 180 original pieces, some of which never left Egypt before. On display are the famous Treasure of Tanis and the gold necklace of Psusenes I, the gold bracelet of Sheshonq I, and the pendant of Princess Mereret. The legacy of the Pharaoh Ramses the Great is here in the statues, sarcophagi, jewelry, gold and masks.

Egyptian jewelry found in the tomb

Egyptian jewelry found in the tomb

Ramses II Sarcophagus

Ramses II Sarcophagus

Interestingly, France has had a role since early on. During his visit to the Cairo Museum in 1975, French doctor Maurice Bucaille found Ramesses the Great’s mummy in poor condition. With the help of French President Valéry Giscard d’Estaing, the Egyptian authorities were convinced to send the mummy to France for treatment. The mummy arrived at Paris-Le Bourget Airport in September 1976 and received full military honors before being taken to a laboratory at the Musée de l’Homme. In 1976, Pierre-Fernand Ceccaldi, the chief forensic scientist at the Criminal Identification Laboratory of Paris, conducted a forensic examination of the mummy. Ceccaldi noted that the mummy had slightly wavy, red hair and concluded that Ramesses II was of a “Berber type,” and hence fair-skinned based on the cranial features. Further examination of the roots of Ramesses II’s hair confirmed that the king’s hair was originally red, indicating that he may have come from a family of redheads. This observation has significant historical and cultural implications as people with red hair in ancient Egypt were associated with the deity Set, who was considered the slayer of Osiris. Additionally, Ramesses II’s father’s name, Seti I, translates to “follower of Seth.” (Source)

Ramses II's coffin

Ramses II’s coffin

During one of the videos that plays as part of the exhibition, it showed a large number of hot air balloons firing up in order to hover above the desert in Luxor…and by coincidence, this was one of the events of Erica’s trip.

Flying high over Luxor, Photo by Erica Simone

Flying high over Luxor, Photo by Erica Simone

Don’t miss it!


Mother’s Day in France isn’t until June 4th, but since my daughter is with me this week, we decided to celebrate Mother’s Day yesterday as it was the U.S. version. The American version of this holiday was established by Anna Jarvis in 1908 and was officially recognized as a U.S. holiday in 1914. The French version has its roots in the Napoleonic era. It is believed that in 1806, the French emperor declared a day to honor mothers of large families. This tradition was revived for a brief period after World War I, then in 1950 a law was established to formally dedicate Mother’s Day as an official tribute.

Official or not, it was a chance to celebrate together by treating ourselves to a special luncheon, in a restaurant of which Erica had never had the pleasure—Le Train Bleu in the Gare de Lyon. I am at the station several times a month as I go back and forth between Paris and Nice on the TGV (Train à Grande Vitesse). One hundred fifty years ago it was not so fast, but still left from this station. It was a bit strange to head to the station absent any luggage, and it was a shame that the station is undergoing renovation as the magnificent grand iron staircase to the legendary restaurant is obscured by tarpaulins and temporary walls. Even so, the restaurant remains every bit as beautiful and elegant as ever.

Inside Le Train Bleu Restaurant in Paris

It all began with the 1900 during the Universal Exhibition, when the station buffet was constructed. Marius Toudoire, the renowned architect responsible for the clock tower and façade of the Gare de Lyon, was entrusted with the project. The railway company’s management aimed to create an unforgettable gourmet experience in a luxurious, modern, and legendary setting. It was inaugurated in 1901 by the French President, Emile Loubet, and took off immediately as a popular destination for high society and artists. In 1963, the buffet was renamed “Le Train Bleu” in honor of the “Paris-Vintimille” line, which was established in 1868 and served towns along the Mediterranean coast on the French Riviera…just like the TGV does today.

Chef Michel Rostang offers a menu that combines French tradition and gourmet pleasure. The service in the dining room, by a brigade of passionate “maîtres d’hôtel” in their tuxedos, working the room with precision, is a real spectacle, with flambéing, preparing steak tartare, and cutting of a leg of lamb at the table. It was a moment out of time; an experience that is like the beginning of a fabulous journey to discover the most beautiful regions of France…even if what we did instead after our sumptuous fare was head west to Palais Royal on Line 1 of the Métro.

Slicing lamb off the bone at Le Train Bleu

Slicing lamb off the bone at Le Train Bleu

The Spring Salad at Le Train Bleu

The Spring Salad at Le Train Bleu

The Palais Royal is a mirrored wonder at the moment. In an effort to hide the construction site on the Place du Palais-Royal which prepares the arrival of the Fondation Cartier in 2025, and in order not to spoil the landscape for passers-by, the famous architect, Jean Nouvel, has clad the facades with large mirrors that so camouflage what lies beneath. It’s astonishing! There are five rows of 22 mirrors on one side, and 18 on the other, in which are reflected the sky and, depending on the orientation, the facade of the Louvre museum, the pediment of the Council of State, the foliage of the neighboring Place Colette…etc. Even up close, it’s tough to distinguish what’s real from what’s just a reflection.

Place du Palais Royal, by Jean Nouvel

Place du Palais Royal, by Jean Nouvel


Erica met up with an old school buddy for drinks at Le Nemours and I went on to the Musée des Arts Décoratifs on the western end of Le Louvre to see the “Des Cheveux et des Poils” exhibition, on until September 17th.

I must admit, I’d never seen an exhibition devoted to hair before! This museum is a wonderland of fascinating events devoted to everything related to fashion and beyond. This one is all about hair in the Western world showing how hairstyles and the arrangement of human hair have played a role in the construction of appearances for centuries.

One of many portraits at the "Des Cheveux et des Poils"exhibition at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs

One of many portraits at the “Des Cheveux et des Poils”exhibition at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs

You wander through the rooms of more than 600 works, from the 15th-century to the present day, exploring the themes inherent in the history of hairstyling, but also the issues related to facial and body hair. The trades and skills of yesterday and today are highlighted via their emblematic figures: Leonard Autier (Marie-Antoinette’s favorite hairdresser), Monsieur Antoine, the Carita sisters, Alexandre de Paris and more recently the studio hairdressers. Great names of contemporary fashion such as Alexander McQueen, Martin Margiela or Josephus Thimister are represented with spectacular creations made from this singular material—hair.

A headdress of hair on exhibition at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs

A headdress of hair on exhibition at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs

I expected to laugh throughout, but instead found myself smiling broadly at least and fascinated by what creativity is possible using hair as a medium. You might think this is all absurd, but I’ll bet you’ll enjoy it as much as I did…and maybe discover some new styles to try out along the way!

A la prochaine…

Adrian Leeds in a read coat and blue beret at Gare de Lyon in PraisAdrian Leeds
The Adrian Leeds Group®

P.S. Have you registered for our Expats in France Quarterly Financial Forum yet? It’s coming up June 7th and it’s FREE! Details and registration are on our website. Sign up today!


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