LEARN ALL ABOUT THE 7 WONDERS OF OLIVE OIL WITH ALICE ALECH

Entretien avec l’auteur Alice Alech pour Riviera Buzz. Interview with author Alice Alech for Riviera buzz.

Alice Alech

We meet with author Alice Alech to learn more about her recent book “The 7 Wonders of Olive Oil” and to discuss the benefits of this magical elixir.

A beautiful French woman, Jeanne Calment, lived to be 122 years old. Toward the end of her life, when asked the secret of her longevity and her relatively youthful appearance, she has two words: “olive oil”. This supercentenarian French lady was alert right until the end of her life.”

Using this as a starting point, olive oil enthusiast and expert Alice Alech decided to delve into this fascinating subject and recently co-authored “The 7 Wonders of Olive Oil”. To learn more about the amazing health effects of the “green nectar”, we had the chance to ask Alice a few questions.

Hello Alice, thank you for meeting with us. First of all, can you tell us a little about your background?

I guess you must mean my professional background.

I am a healthcare worker by profession, a radiographer (x- ray technician). I lived in Australia for a while where I went on to study mammography: X- ray imaging of the breast, on both well women and women with breast cancer.

I started writing non-fiction a few years back and am enjoying it more and more. Hopefully, this will mean less travelling to the U.K for work, more time in Provence and writing.

Where does your interest in olive oil come from?

Entirely by accident, a few years ago, when I started writing for the online newspaper OLIVE OIL TIMES, covering news on olive oil activities in France. I got to meet olive oil producers, growers, men and women who were passionate about their work and what they produced. Then I found myself looking into the health aspects of extra virgin becoming more and more intrigued. On meeting and collaborating with olive oil expert Cécile Le Galliard we realised we had the same idea — a guidebook, not only on the health benefits of olive oil but exploring the role olive oil plays in the Mediterranean diet, cooking with, and buying, olive oil.

Your book talks about the 7 wonders of olive oil. What are they?

The Health section of 7 Wonders is based on scientific research where we talked to the researchers involved in various studies. The seven amazing health benefits include:

– Anti inflammation
– Cancer Prevention
– Skin rejuvenation
– Healthy bones
– Alzheimer’s disease prevention
– Reduction in risk for diabetes
– Stroke and heart attack prevention

Since olive oil is so good for you, why is the Mediterranean diet so neglected these days?

I think one of the reasons why this eating pattern is neglected these days is because we don’t make healthy eating a priority. This may well be because we are caught up with work, with other activities and are too busy to take the necessary time to shop and prepare food. Often, the choice for something quick (fast food) or eating out, seem a more comfortable option. Don’t forget though that although we refer to “the Mediterranean diet”, it’s more of a lifestyle than a diet. Most diets today have strict rules as to what we should eat and what we shouldn’t eat. With the Mediterranean diet there are no food restrictions.

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Where does France rank in terms of production and consumption?

Though France produces excellent olive oil; it is a really small producer and has to import 95% of its consumption. France simply does not produce enough olive oil to compete with the giants Spain, Italy, and Greece; it produces only around 4,700,000 kg/per year.

It seems that the Mediterranean basin is no longer the only centre for olive oil production?

Granted, the EU produces about 80% of the world’s olive oil, but olive oil production has taken off enormously around the world. You’ll find olive tree cultivation in South America, the United States, South Africa, Australia, New Zealand, India, and China.

As consumers, what should we look for when buying olive oil?

For those of us who live here in the South, it’s so much better to buy from the producer themselves, they are usually very willing to spend time explaining how to appreciate olive oil, and will let you taste before you buy. If you can’t get to a producer easily then watch out for the following when you buy:

– Make sure you buy extra virgin. Extra virgin on the label means that the oil meets the required chemical and organoleptic standards.

– Check the Certification and country of origin

– Look for the harvest date. This will tell you how fresh the oil is. Look for a date within the last year.

Look for the following:

PDO – Protected Designation of Origin is the European certificate that tells you that the product comes from a particular country in Europe. The oil was produced and processed in the same place.

DPO or DOP – Denominazione d’Origine Protetta is the Italian version of PDO.

AOC – Appellation d’Origine Controlée is the French term for PDO.

PGI – Protected Geographical Indication is not as stringent as PDO and means that one stage of production, processing, or preparation took place in the geographic region.

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You include some recipes in your book. Do you have one, in particular, you would recommend to someone trying to switch to a Mediterranean diet?

Cécile and I did not want complicated recipes for this book and certainly did not see 7 Wonders as a cookbook. We wanted to provide simple basic recipes, such as homemade mayonnaise, so much better than the bought stuff. For a more Mediterranean touch, we included recipes such as Tapenade.

Your book also explains how olive oil can be used outside the kitchen. Can you give us a few examples?

Let’s look at some ways we can use olive oil on our bodies.

– As a face mask: Mash half an avocado with some olive oil and make into a paste. Smooth it onto your face and leave for about fifteen minutes or so, then rinse.

– To energize a tired face: Mix some olive oil with a few drops of lavender oil and rub onto your face. Cover with a hot flannel and relax for a few minutes.

– To help with wrinkles: Before going to sleep, massage your face with a mixture of oil and lemon juice a couple of times a week.

– To avoid mosquito bites on vacation: Buy some local olive oil, mix with lavender oil and some citronella, and rub on exposed skin.

You wanted “out of the kitchen tips” but here’s something I learned from Cécile and now include in my breakfast routine, a great way to start the day: Olive oil and honey on toast – simple nourishing and healthy.

Can you tell us what plans you have for the future now that the book is out?

Cécile and I now need to promote 7 Wonders of Olive Oil especially in Europe and perhaps, later on, translate our book into other languages. It will take time but we are looking forward to the challenge.

Finally, you live in Provence, what do you like so much about the South of France?

I guess it would have to be the weather, how easy it is to get fresh produce and being in the open air. After living in big cities for a long time, it’s wonderful to be living here in the South.

Thank you very much Florence for inviting us to talk about 7 Wonders of Olive Oil.

Many thanks to Alice for taking the time to answer our questions. To find out more about her work, you can visit her website, and, of course, buy her book, “The 7 wonders of Olive Oil”, which is available on amazon.

 

Photo of oliviers © RIVIERA BUZZ; all other photos courtesy Alice Alech

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FROM LOS ANGELES TO ANTIBES, MEET VEGAN CHEF IVY DAI

Entretien avec la restauratrice Ivy Dai. Interview with chef Ivy Dai.

When not writing about food, you can find chef Ivy Dai serving up her delicious plant-based cuisine at Graze Artisan Café, the restaurant she recently launched in Antibes.

To help you get to know Ivy better as well as finding out more about her restaurant and vegan cuisine in general, we had the chance to ask her a few questions.

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Hello Ivy. First of all can you tell us a little bit about yourself? I understand that you are from Los Angeles but have been traveling a lot over the last few years?

Hello! Yes I am originally from Los Angeles, born and raised. Since I was a little girl I have always had a bit of wanderlust. I first left home and travelled abroad at age 22 to China. It was a huge culture shock, but definitely an adventure and I learned Mandarin in the process. I went back to the States and worked as a food journalist then a producer for ABC News in 2008 before leaving and finally following my dream: attending the Cordon Bleu Culinary School. I completed my externship in Paris at Lenôtre and Hédiard, then headed back to California where I worked at the Four Seasons and Ritz Carlton hotels as a pastry chef.

France kept calling me back, and I finally landed an opportunity to help open a gluten free Pâtisserie in Paris in 2012. That was also a big move, and it was really tough adjusting. During my time there I also worked as a French pastry instructor and helped open NeoBento, an organic café in the trendsetting 3rd arrondissement (Le Marais). I also ran my own cooking classes, Dragon Dinners, which I launched in 2008 in California, teaching home cooks how to make authentic Chinese!

My yoga instructor in LA, Sabrina Kappler, worked in yachting and convinced me to come to Antibes and try my hand at yachting. It was tough breaking in at first, despite my experience. I cooked on several yachts for a variety of owners, and found my niche in plant-based and gluten-free fare with an international twist. My clients now seek me out solely for this type of cuisine, mostly in Europe but I recently just returned from Qatar and have worked in Asia.

Essentially, the cuisine you get in my restaurant is what I make for my international clients. I created Graze because I wanted to make tasty wholesome food available to the masses. I thought to myself – how can I take what I do for one person and do that same thing for many. That’s where the concept of Graze was born.

When did you first know that you wanted to become a chef? And a vegan one at that!

I first knew I wanted to be a chef in Mrs. Hilscher’s home economics class in 7th grade. I was 13. I learned to bake. I was always forcing my family to try new weird things. I had a natural skill for it.

At 19 I wanted to be a food writer, which I achieved at the age of 25, then I took the leap and went to culinary school and haven’t looked back since.

What do you enjoy most about being a chef?

love feeding people. I love seeing the excitement in people’s faces and their whole being lights up when you cook something just how ‘mom used to make it’, or someone discovers a flavor so new and stupendous, it cracks open their world. Food is a journey of emotions, and a common language that connects people of all backgrounds.

You have recently launched your own restaurant, Graze Artisan Café, in Antibes, can you tell us a little about this new adventure? How would you describe the food you offer?

Opening Graze has been so gratifying, I didn’t except I would gain so much satisfaction and create a new community. The menu and style of service Graze offers has evolved according to the needs of our customers. And it’s a beautiful thing.

Look, I am not against meat. I am not telling anyone that butter is evil and don’t ever eat a hamburger again. In fact I love butter (a huge reason why I moved to France). Being a ‘vegan’ restaurant (I prefer to call it plant-based) becomes quite a political statement. People say but I like meat and I won’t stop eating it. But…do you need to have it at EVERY single meal? What about some curry? A delicious soup? Some dessert? Or a smoothie? There is really a lot of variety to eat!

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I am not against meat, I am for fresh fruits and vegetables. Meat and eggs and dairy products are excellent for health, especially bone broth, but in the modern age it takes a lot of time and money to eat high quality animal protein. And even then eating grass-fed is actually worse for the environment…one cow then eats so much more plants than a grain-fed cow.

I tell some of my customers who say why don’t you serve meat..I tell them if you go hunt and kill an animal and bring it to me, I will cook it. Or you can eat as much as cake, cookies, and pizzas as you want – just make it yourself. Hunting and baking are time-consuming, and foods that we rarely ate before the industrialization of food. Now you can have a burger anytime – but if you are only eating meat and wheat, there’s not much room for a vegetable. When you eliminate meat, you are forced to cook, then you naturally eat better.

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But I also know it is a challenge to eat well – there’s the shopping, the cooking, the menu planning, the clean up. Here at Graze, we strive to make wholesome food readily available for all of us who are getting busier and busier – and find ourselves eating crisps and an apple for dinner.

And why did you choose Antibes?

The French Riviera is on the exact same latitude line as California. It reminds me of home – the topography, near the beach and also the mountains, the weather, the relaxed attitude. I live in Antibes and chose to open Graze here because we need it. After years of living here, I found it tough to eat well on the go. As well as finding a variety of cuisines. And eating well means feeding your taste buds as well as your body. Enjoying a gastronomic experience is synonymous with being French – and how can a country who does not eat well, be well?

How do you dispel the belief that a vegan diet is bland?

Let’s name a few things that are tasty and just so happen to have no animal products:

– Chips/fries/french fries/pomme frites
– Onion bhajis
– A lot of Indian food
– A lot of Chinese food
– Guacamole
– Hummus
– Smoothies
– Chocolate
– Granola bars

So anyways we serve all this stuff here! Even scrumptious tacos and burgers, vegan pizza, Thai food, you name it. I would say we are more about offering a variety of international cuisine (as America is a large melting pot) than putting lettuce and pasta on a plate and saying bon appetit.

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Does being vegan help in maintaining a healthy weight?

As I mentioned earlier, when you add more fruits and vegetables in your diet, you automatically cut out a lot of processed food, which is what makes you tired, pack on the pounds, and grab for more sugary drinks, candy bars and fast food. At Graze all our smoothies are only made with 100 percent fresh fruit, desserts are made with unrefined cane sugar, and our dishes are perfect for anyone trying to lose weight or get lean. For example, our Thai Burger has 5 fruits and veggies, chickpeas for protein, and spicy curry paste to burn fat, 200 calories and ZERO fat. And it’s pretty damn tasty too…it’s topped with our coriander ‘aioli’ (made with organic soymilk).

I first tried to become vegan about 10 years ago, and it has been a long and bumpy journey to move to a plant-based diet. I remember the first day I didn’t eat meat or dairy I was crawling to In-N- Out Burger by the end of the day (a popular burger chain in California).

After I experienced severe adrenal fatigue and exhaustion in 2013, my digestion and overall health was shot – and I only craved fruits and vegetables. So that is all I ate for 6 months. I also did a juice fast for 3 days that really opened my eyes in terms of my attitude with food – that I ate to curb anxiety or when I was thirsty – not when I was actually hungry.

Everyone knows fruits and vegetables are good for you. So think about ADDING some color into your diet versus focusing on ELIMINATING meat and dairy. We need those vitamins and minerals to stay strong and healthy and skinny!

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What tip would you give to someone interesting in becoming a vegan?

If you are moving towards a plant based diet, I suggest eating things you like that already have a lot of flavor – like chili, but instead of ground meat, add 3 beans (for 9 complete amino acids). Or try Indian food, or maybe a sweet and sour basil eggplant stirfry. The trick is to keep your taste buds and body satisfied – hot as well as oily food will help keep you grounded as you move to a plant-based diet.

Do you have a culinary specialty?

To the first 25 people who like us on Facebook, I will send a FREE recipe booklet of my favorite recipes from the upcoming Graze cookbook. After liking us, just email usand we will send you your free copy!

My culinary specialties? Pastry (appeared on Food Network’s “Cupcakes Wars”), Chinese, and vegan and gluten-free of course !

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And finally, what do you like so much about the French Riviera? Are there any special places you would recommend?

For a list of all my favorite places in Antibes, you can check my site.

New Antibes additions: Mamalu, an amazing family style Italian restaurant by the covered market, The 44, a gastronomic meal in an intimate setting.

Favorite places in the Riviera: Mandelieu-la Napoule, Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat, Chèvre d’Or in Eze, La Réserve (beach) in Nice, and on my yoga mat at Samasthiti Yoga or Azure Yoga in Antibes!

Many thanks to Ivy a for taking the time to answer our question, and we wish her the very best of luck with her new adventure. To find out more about Ivy’s work, you can visit her website and, of course, check out Graze Artisan Café when you happen to be in Antibes.

CONTACT DETAILS
Graze Artisan Café
20, rue des Casemates
06600 ANTIBES

Tel: +33 (0)4 89 82 51 73

All photos courtesy Ivy Dai / Graze Café

NADIA FRY HELPS TURN YOUR WEDDING DREAMS INTO REALITY

Entretien avec Nadia Fry pour Riviera Buzz. Interview with Nadia Fry for Riviera Buzz.

Nadia Fry had always dreamed of running her own business, and recently decided to launch her own wedding planning venture.

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Born in Latvia, Nadia Fry has spent many years working in the field of luxury. She recently launched her own wedding planning company, putting her organizational skills and creative vision at the service of couples who have big expectations for their special day.

First of all, can you tell us a little about yourself and your background?

My name is Nadia Fry, I was born in Riga, Latvia (Baltic States). My parents are originally from Ukraine and Kazakhstan. Following studies in Latvia, England, Italy and France, I have worked in different luxury environments. Most recently, I spent seven years in the yachting industry. I am married to an amazing Frenchman, and we have two beautiful children, Jules and Naomi.

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What inspired you to become a wedding planner?

I have always dreamt of running my own business, and a couple of years ago, I felt I was ready for it. To be a wedding planner means putting all my knowledge, experiences, passions, talents together in order to help people live their dreams.

What is your signature style?

I love nature. Even if every wedding is very individual, I prefer bohemian, rustic, and vintage styles. My favourite parts are the floral design and the coordination of the wedding day, when I can use my creativity and foreign language skills.

In your opinion, what are the required qualities to be a good wedding planner?

First of all, you have to be a nice person, very open-minded, able to manage stressful situations, multifunctional, creative, and have good taste.

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What do you find the most challenging about your work?

The biggest challenge is meeting my client’s expectations while respecting their budget and creating the dream they have in mind!

And the most rewarding?

When the couple trust you completely and when they are happy with the organisation of their wedding.

Have you already noticed any hot wedding trends for the upcoming year?

More and more people like natural styles, where you can see a lot of green decoration with eucalyptus, olive, rosemary branches. White is still used a lot, but often it is mixed with bright colours, like purple, blue, pink, and so on. Natural materials are used for the decoration, like wood, linen and stones. Simple things.

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What advice would you give to couples who are in the midst of planning their special day? How involved should they be in the whole process?

It is very individual, actually. People think that a wedding planner is an additional cost, but the reality is that thanks to a wedding planner the couple can save time and money, because wedding planners are in contact with the best suppliers and can benefit from the best rates. Some couples give free rein to the wedding planner, some other only delegate one part of the organisation. Well, the best thing to do in any case is to choose a person / wedding planner that you trust.

Your company organizes weddings in the south of France and the south of Italy. As for you, do you have one favorite spot in particular?

Well, there are so many magic places and it is not easy to pick.

In the South of Italy, I prefer Villa Scarpariello, an historic castle built on a sea cliff. This noble and enchanting aristocratic residence is situated in Marmorata di Ravello, one of the most exclusive and panoramic towns on the Amalfi Coast.

In the South of France, I would recommend getting married in the charming little villages of the Mercantour, like Saint-Martin Vésubie. Only an hour from the airport, you find the most beautiful and preserved natural grounds in the beautiful mountains with a true warm hospitality. This was my personal choice when I got married four years ago…

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Finally, what do you like about the French Riviera?

It is an amazing place! For me, it is magical to sit on the beach and see the mountains capped with snow. Italy is very close. Every town by the sea has its own charm and style. The little villages around are talking history and it seems that you are in a different reality.

Many thanks to Nadia for taking the time to talk to us. To find out more about Nadia’s work, be sure to visit her website

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All photos courtesy Nadia Fry

FALL IN LOVE WITH PROVENCE ALL OVER AGAIN WITH PATRICIA SANDS

Mon entretien avec l’écrivain canadien, Patricia Sands, pour Riviera Buzz. My interview of Canadian author, Patricia Sands, for Riviera Buzz.

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Canadian author Patricia Sands is in love with the French Riviera, a region she visits every year.

Her Love in Provence series, which includes three books to date, perfectly captures the beauty of the place we call home.

To get to know Patricia and her work better, we sat down with her to ask a few questions.

First of all, can you tell us a little bit about yourself and your background?

I am Canadian, with a home base in Toronto. I was a busy and happy stay-at-home mother for thirteen years until my husband suddenly died of pancreatic cancer at the age of 49. Our sons were 12 and 13. Needless to say it was a devastating time for us all.

I returned to university and became an elementary school teacher for a few years before I remarried. That was 20 years ago, and now our happily blended family consists of 7 adult ‘kids’ and six grandchildren. We all live near each other and spend a lot of time together. I play golf and tennis and still get out to ski from time to time, but my husband and I spend most of our winters in south Florida now. We try to spend a few months in Europe between May and October. It varies from year to year.

What brought you to France, and Antibes in particular?

I first fell in love with France when I backpacked around for a year when I was 21. The love affair has only grown throughout my life as I was fortunate to return often on holiday. For the past twenty years, my husband and I have spent at least two months there each year.

After renting a house in Biot one year, we discovered Antibes and that was that! My heart will live there forever and we return every year, although we also like to spend time in Nice as well.

Have you always wanted to be a writer?

I began writing seriously quite by accident! Ten years ago I started writing a book called The Bridge Club just for fun, for my real life Bridge Club. Eight women who have been friends for almost fifty years. As people began to read bits of the novel, they would say that their book club wanted to read it and that I was telling stories that most women would relate to in many ways. So I looked into publishing and decided to do it myself in 2010. After its success, I knew I would continue writing because I loved the whole experience.

When my husband and I were living in Antibes for 5 months in 2011, I wrote the first draft of The Promise of Provence, published in 2013, and the reader response was tremendous. So out of that novel grew the Love in Provence trilogy. In 2014, Book #2, Promises To Keep, was published. To that point I was publishing independently. However, Amazon discovered my books and signed me to a contract with their women’s fiction imprint, Lake Union Publishing. Lake Union then published Book #3 of the series, I Promise You This, in May 2016.

Being an author is never easy and it consumes my life, but when you love what you do, the effort is worth it.

Can you tell us a little bit more about the series?

In Book #1, 55-year-old Katherine Price’s husband of 22 years suddenly leaves her. She moves in with her elderly mother for a few months. The character of her mother, Elisabeth, is based on my late mother-in-law and much of her story is factual. It was important to me to share that. I hope readers will think about preserving their own family history when they read that part.

Then, Katherine or Kat, as she is often called, is persuaded to go on a home exchange to the Luberon and her life begins to change from her first day there. The location moves to Antibes as the story progresses. Book #2, Promises To Keep,continues her journey with a bit of drama added. Book #3, brings the trilogy to a close as Kat makes choices that will change her life forever. The story is in many ways a coming-of-age in middle age, and encourages readers to see that it’s never too late to take chances, make changes, and realize dreams.

In some ways the series is my love letter to France. I focus on location a great deal as I want my readers to see, smell, taste and savour life in the south of France. Many readers tell me they felt they were right there with the characters, and that’s very satisfying to me as a writer.

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Was it obvious for you to set the story in Provence?

Absolutely, no question! After the success of The Bridge Club and the realization I was going to keep writing about older women for the rest of my life, I knew my next book would be set in Provence. Little did I know it would become a series!

And do you have anything in common with the main character of your love in Provence series, Katherine Price?

I’ve never had to go through a divorce. However, having been widowed I know how it feels to suddenly begin to face life on your own at a later stage in life. Certainly, some aspects of Katherine’s personality have similarities to mine, but for the most part I would say she is her own person. We are both optimists and share the same values. It was great fun feeling her grow in confidence and outlook as the story unfolded.

Can we expect a fourth book in the series?

Funny you should ask! I receive emails from readers on a regular basis asking me to keep writing about the characters in the series. I would love to do that! So, right now I am working on a stand-alone novel … also set in France, but the Bouches-du-Rhône department rather than the Côte d’Azur. Hopefully that will be published early in 2017, and then I will return to Kat and friends. I can’t wait!

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You have a blog and you also lead tours of the French Riviera with the Women’s Travel Network. Does this help create a strong bond with your female readers?

Yes, I have a website with a lot of information about my books, about France and a lot of photography about France. I try to post once a week but don’t always manage that these days. Readers can also sign up for my monthly newsletter.

I’ve led two tours based on the locations in The Promise of Provence and we will do one in June 2017. I believe there are two spots left as we speak. There will be 16 women in all and it’s a fabulous trip. We spend 6 days in Nice and 6 in Avignon, with day trips to many of the wonderful villages in the story, including lavender fields. It’s great fun and lovely to get to know my readers in person.

In general, what is for you the hardest part about writing?

This may sound crazy, but I love everything about the world of writing. I guess the hardest part is knowing when to say a first draft is finished and ready to go to an editor. Writers always find ways to keep tweaking a story to make it better and better. I’m definitely guilty of that.

And the most rewarding?

This was a surprise to me. I never anticipated hearing from so many readers and the emails they send are wonderful. They are inspiring, motivating, satisfying and rewarding. The advent of ebooks has made it so easy to communicate with an author and I love hearing from readers. I try to respond personally to each one, but some times this is not possible and that’s why I began writing a monthly newsletter. It helps me feel like I am talking to readers who want to hear from me. I only send it to people who subscribe to it.

The other rewarding part of writing is the amazing, supportive, caring international community of writers I get to associate with and learn from. What an honour to be part of it.

What advice would you give to aspiring writers?

Read Stephen King’s book “On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft”. The most important advice I took from it when I was beginning to write The Bridge Club is this: if you feel so strongly that you have a story to tell, sit down and write it. Make mistakes. Find your voice. TELL YOUR STORY IN YOUR OWN WAY! Then work with a good, reputable editor (not a relative or friend) who will help you hone your style. Write, write, write!

Finally, as you spend some time every year in Antibes, what do you like so much about the French Riviera?

Where do I begin? I like the people, the history, the language, the food and wine, and, of course, the beauty. Since photography is a big part of what I do, the visual beauty of that part of the world offers endless opportunities.

I feel incredibly blessed to spend time there and to be able to share my love of that part of the world with so many readers.

Thanks so much for inviting me to visit with you.

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Many thanks to Patricia for taking the time to talk to us. To find out more about the Love in Provence series and Patricia’s other activities, you can visit her website, her Amazon Author Page, or connect via Instagram.

All photos courtesy Patricia Sands except final image via Amazon

DISCOVER NICE’S HIDDEN SECRETS WITH LOCAL AUTHOR MARGO LESTZ

Mon entretien avec l’auteur niçois Margo Lestz pour Riviera Buzz. My interview with local author Margo Lestz for Riviera Buzz.

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Passionate about both Europe and history, local author Margo Lestz writes mostly about the French Riviera and France.

American author Margo Lestz has written two books, French Holidays & Traditions and Curious Histories of Nice, France, full of engaging stories and fun facts about the place we call home.

To help you get to know Margo and her work better, she very kindly agreed to sit down with us and answer a few questions.

First of all, can you tell us a little bit about yourself and your background?

I always say I’m a perpetual student because throughout my life, I’ve had the desire to go to school. Sometimes just for a course or two, and sometimes for degrees. My university years started at the age of 17 and ended when I was in my 50s – that is, if they have, indeed, ended … I have a degree in liberal studies because I could never decide on just one subject to study.

What brought you to France, and Nice in particular?

My husband and I are American by birth, and we moved to London in 2003 and took British citizenship. London is a fantastic city and I love it, but because of health issues, I needed a warmer winter climate. The south of France seemed like a good choice, since I had studied a little bit of French, and Nice was the most practical location because of the airport being close to the city centre. So, Nice was really a practical choice, but right away, we fell in love with the city.

Have you always wanted to be a writer?

I know many writers say they have written stories all their life, but not me. I never even thought about writing until 2003 when I took a creative writing course. I was trying to finish up a degree before I left the US and my advisor said this creative writing course would fit in with my requirements. I took it and to my surprise, I found that I really enjoyed writing.

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Your first book was about French Holidays and traditions. What is your favourite tradition?

Well, I really like the story behind May 1st and the lily-of-the-valley flower. It seems the tradition started in 1561 when Charles IX took the throne. He was a pretty unlucky king and had all kinds of tragedies during his reign. Once on May 1st, when his kingdom was in a mess and his people were starving, he tried to cheer them up by having his soldiers pass out lily-of-the-valley flowers in Paris. This was supposed to be a symbol of good luck, but because everyone was hungry, they ate the flowers (which are poisonous) and Charles ended up killing many of his loyal subjects. However, the lily-of-the-valley’s reputation as a good luck symbol remained intact.

Your second book was about curious histories of Nice. Any unknown/fun facts you can share with us?

Many people don’t know that when Adam and Eve were kicked out of the Garden of Eden that a band of angels felt sorry for them and led them across a beautiful bay to a land just as magnificent as their former garden. Of course, that land was Nice … at least according to the legend. This is one story to explain where the name Baie des Anges or Bay of Angels came from. For those who might not believe this legend, the proof is that Adam and Eve’s house is still standing in the Old Town – of course, there’s a good chance that it might not be the original.

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Have you any new projects in the pipeline at the moment?

I’m currently working on a book similar to Curious Histories of Nice, France, but with stories about Provence. Maybe it will be called Curious Histories of Provence – we’ll have to wait and see.

Typically, how long does it take to research your books? Where do you find your background information?

I don’t really get in a hurry; I think it took about two years to have enough information for the first two books. One reason it takes me a while to write a book is that I don’t always stick to one subject: I tend to work on multiple projects at the same time.

I really like researching and I use internet sources as well as books and periodicals. I prefer to research in French because there is more information and sometimes there is a bit of a different perspective.

What is the hardest part about writing for you?

For me, the hardest part of writing is physical. If I’m really into something, I just forget to stop, and I can end up sitting in front of my computer for many hours. My neck and shoulders get stiff, then when I get up … ouch!

And the most rewarding?

The most rewarding part of writing is when other people appreciate my stories. Even if I like something I have written, there are still little doubts about whether it’s any good. When someone I don’t know says they enjoy it, it’s a good feeling.

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What advice would you give to aspiring writers?

The best advice for an aspiring writer is to write. The more you write, the better you become and the more your style develops. I think it’s important to push through your first draft – don’t try to make everything perfect, just get it down. After all your ideas are down, then you can start to refine it.

Finally, what do you like so much about Nice and the French Riviera?

I like that Nice is big enough to have lots of activities going on all the time, but small enough to walk wherever you need to go. Being by the sea is a big bonus – even though I don’t swim, it’s still beautiful and calming to look at. I also find that most of the people here are very friendly and helpful and no one gets in much of a hurry about anything.

Many thanks to Margo for taking the time to talk to us. We are already looking forward to read her upcoming book! To find out more about Margo’s work, you can visit her website, The Curious Rambler.

All images courtesy Margo Lestz

 

MEET LOCAL FASHION DESIGNER NINA TRANSFELD

Entretien avec Nina Transfeld, une jeune créatrice de mode installée dans le vieux Nice, pour Riviera Buzz. Interview with Nina Transfeld, a young fashion designer established in the old Nice, for Riviera Buzz.

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Nina Transfeld is a young German fashion designer who runs her own boutique in the heart of Vieux Nice, Nina Transfeld Couture.

We recently sat down with Nina Transfeld and spoke with her of her journey thus far and where she sees herself in the future, but also of her love for fashion and the French Riviera.

Can you tell us a little about yourself?

My name is Nina Transfeld, I’m originally from Cologne, Germany and after having lived in New York for 10 years, I returned to Europe and have now recently opened a small boutique with my own clothing line in the South of France.

Why did you decide to move to Nice?

Before I moved to Nice, I had only lived in very big cities like New York and Paris. For me personally, and also for the boutique, I think that a smaller city is better, it’s less stressful and it’s more like a community. I often meet people on the street that I know and it’s nice to stop and chat for a few minutes. On top of that I love the sunshine – more than 300 days a year, yay! – which is also great for selling my colourful summer dresses. When the sun shines, the colours of the buildings are stunning, very inspirational for me as well.

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Can you tell us a little about your brand, Nina Transfeld Couture? What is the concept behind it?

Nina Transfeld Couture is a very small clothing line, with small and exclusive collections. Within the collection I only have approximately 15 different designs and only three to five items per design. If you buy a dress at my boutique, it is safe to assume that you won’t see it anywhere else, worn by someone else. Besides that, almost all items are handmade in France and I only choose high quality materials, while still remaining accessible.

What interests you about fashion?

I am a very creative person and I can express my creativity through fashion. I have always loved fashion, especially dresses and I only design items that I would wear myself.

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Where do you find your inspiration?

I find inspiration in many different places, in places I have travelled to and people I have met, from music, movies, but also from people on the street. Sometimes I see someone who wears an outfit I just totally love and I quickly snatch a photo of it, to keep it as an inspiration.

Which designers and brands have been your inspirations?

Of course I love Dior first and foremost, because he was an excellent designer, he designed collections, which highlighted femininity to the fullest, but at the same time he was also an excellent businessman, which is equally important. Chanel of course as well, because she came from nothing and created her own universe with her collections, but I also find inspirations in small designers with their own small boutiques like mine who are brave enough to take that risk and who try to withstand big brands and create their own instead.

As a designer, what are your goals and ambitions?

I would love to develop my brand more so that it will become better known, also in other cities like Paris, London, Berlin and the like. But I will always stay true to my concept. I will always want my brand to stay exclusive and I will never compromise on quality.

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What skills would you say are important for a successful career in fashion design?

I think the most important skill is creativity. You always have to design more items, more collections. If you are not creative you will quickly run out of ideas. Besides being a creative person, it is also very important to be a good business person. It’s important to know how to run a business as well, and which steps to take to make your business or brand successful.

What advice would you give to young designers who wish to start their own label?

I would say go for it and don’t let the doubts get to you. Do something fresh and original, it will take some time, but you will find your clients who will love what you do!

Finally, what do you like about the French Riviera?

Wow, too many things to list, the French Riviera is just an absolutely stunning place. It’s a dream to live here, like paradise. I love the sunshine, the sea, all the small hidden villages, the architecture…everything!

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Many thanks to Nina for taking the time to talk to us. To find out more about her work, you can visit her website. Or equally, if you find yourself in Vieux Nice, do drop into the boutique and say hi from us!

CONTACT DETAILS
Nina Transfeld Couture
5, rue Rossetti
06300 Nice

MEET UP-AND-COMING LOCAL SINGER/SONGWRITER LEA VAN SKY

Rencontre avec la talentueuse artiste Lea Van Sky pour Riviera Buzz. Meeting with the talented artist Lea Van Sky for Riviera Buzz.

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Meet singer-songwriter Lea Van Sky, a very promising talent based on the French Riviera, who is currently working on her first album.

If you haven’t yet heard of Lea Van Sky, you’ve been missing out. She is to be found regularly performing around the region and will be next in concert at L’Entrepôt in Nice at 7:30pm on Friday, the 7th of August. So, to help you get to know Lea better, we sat down with her and asked her a few questions.

Thank you Lea for meeting with us. First of all, could you describe your background a little for our readers? We understand that you are from Riga but moved to London at a young age and now live in Nice.

I am of Russian Ukrainian and Greek origin and I was born in Riga. Both of my parents are cardiologists and I have an older sister who is a marketing director and yoga instructor. They all still live in Riga.

I went to London when I was 17; it was meant to be for a summer break only. I was instantly smitten with the place and begged my parents to let me stay. I still don’t understand how it all happened as I was yet to finish my A levels and my parents are very strict. I studied for my A levels by distance learning, and went on to study Law in London. What was meant to be a summer break lasted 9 years!

Towards the end of those 9 years and shortly after I had started teaching myself French following a last-minute trip toProvence, I met my boyfriend, Bruno. He was working in London at the time but chose to move back to Nice for professional reasons. Meeting Bruno has changed my life and, despite concern expressed by people surrounding me, I did not hesitate to move to Nice with him.

And what made you decide to drop everything to start a musical career?

I have dreamt of a musical career ever since I was little. My parents had gone to great lengths to buy a piano and I enrolled at a conservatory to study piano at the age of 6. I began writing poems and composing tunes around the same time.

I was captivated by the beauty of music and fascinated by its capacity to move, uplift, and inspire. I loved going to concerts and would be the first to dance and sing along.

However, it was strongly ingrained in my mind that a musical career was not for me. It was a realm for a chosen few, who were significantly more talented, creative, and special than me.

So I went to study Law because I was lost and it seemed a safe bet. Throughout my legal career, I felt unfulfilled and sad as I was convinced that there must be more to life and that one should not be spending the majority of their time on something that, to them, has no meaning.

Bruno once asked me what I would do if anything was possible. To me the answer was blatantly clear, and so I started taking singing lessons, bought a piano, and the rest is history… Around the same time I witnessed a dear friend’s unsuccessful battle with cancer and it further pushed me in the direction of living my life to the fullest and on my own terms.

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How would you describe your music?

In line with my personality there is a clear dichotomy to it. It is playful and serious, luminous and melancholic, fragile and powerful…all at the same time! One can discern influences from pop, pop rock, folk, jazz, classical music, Slav and Andalucía/Argentinean music. I have also been told that it bears a resemblance to the songs of Suzanne Vega,Sting, Coldplay, Regina Spektor.

If you could collaborate with one musician or band, who would it be and why?

It would be Sting, without a doubt. I love his music – it is moving, soothing, beautiful and very melodic. To me Sting is an epitome of beautiful music, pretty much like Chanel is an epitome of elegance and style. And in addition, I admire his extensive charity work and his devotion to music.

What has been the most memorable moment of your musical career so far?

Going to MIDEM in June and being offered a record deal and a publishing deal by two record labels. It shows that following your dreams is a viable approach. And I guess it also goes to show that a musical career might in fact be for me…

What’s next for you? Are you working on an album and can people see you perform on stage here on the Côte d’Azur?

I am currently working towards my first record and I spend as much time as I can find writing new material and working on the existing songs. I am extremely lucky to be collaborating with my multi-talented friend Frank Brody (of the F&V duo). He is a guitarist, producer, photographer, and cinematographer. Our collaboration is hugely fruitful, inspiring and enjoyable. In addition to music, we did a photo shoot in London at the beginning of May, and we are preparing to do another one in Nice at the beginning of August.

I am performing on the Côte d’Azur and preparing for a series of concerts in London and Paris. Something that I am really excited about is organising my concerts at art galleries. My next art gallery concert in the region is on August 7th. I will be accompanied by Frank and Papy Mallo, an excellent multi-instrumentalist. The concert will take place atL’Entrepôt – a stunning art gallery next to the beautiful Cours Saleya in Nice. Tickets for the concert are available to purchase online. The best way to stay updated is by subscribing to my newsletter.

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Do you only write and sing in English?

I do write in English only for now, even though I have dabbled in writing in French and Russian, as well as translating my lyrics into Russian and Spanish. I sing in English, Russian and French.

Finally, what do you like about the French Riviera?

I like its climate and the scenery, the charm of the little villages, the beauty of the sea, the location (one can fly or drive pretty much anywhere from the Nice airport) and the fact that it is fairly cosmopolitan. In summer, I love the music festivals and open air concerts. The quality of life is very good. It is a privilege to be living here.
Many thanks to Lea for taking the time to talk to us, and we wish her the very best of luck with her upcoming concert. To find out more about Lea’s work, you can visit her website.

All photos courtesy Lea Van Sky, © Frank G. Brody

TURN THAT GARDEN INTO YOUR OWN LITTLE PIECE OF PARADISE

Cet article a été publié dans Riviera Buzz en 2013 (this article was published in Riviera Buzz in 2013)

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Whether simple, exotic, wild or luxurious, gardens not only fit their owners’ lifestyle, they are also a reflection of their personality.

Garden design is an art in itself, and with so many days of sunshine, the French Riviera is definitely a great place to cultivate beautiful gardens, resplendent with all sorts of plants and flowers. We recently met with a young designer,Stefana Savin (pictured above), who, two years ago, launched her own company, Riviera Gardens, specialising in creating gardens throughout the Côte d’Azur.

Hello, Stefana, first of all, can you tell us a little about yourself, your background? How did you become professionally involved in garden design?

I grew up in the North-Eastern Romanian countryside where as children, my sister and I enjoyed collecting flowers a lot pressing them into books totally at random. Every time I came back home from a walk in nature my hands were filled with colourful bouquets. What a delicious surprise it was to find months, even years later sometimes, a forgotten pressed leaf or petal in a thick dictionary or an adventure novel. The smell of it still lingers, I can still remember the perfume.

My dream at that time was to become a painter, then a doctor, then a lawyer. But when it came to taking a decision at the age of 18, I chose Horticulture and Landscape Design. And, without any doubt, it was one of my best decisions ever.

After graduating from university, I had practical training in a Baroque garden near Dresden in Germany and then later, almost by accident, I started working in a landscape design office in Nice. It all happened so fast. My initial plan was to create a landscaping company in my hometown. I was only supposed to spend two months on the Riviera but guess what? I am still here today, almost five years later. That is the Côte d’Azur effect – there is an undeniable attraction.

Two years ago you created your own company, Riviera Gardens. Can you tell us a bit about it?

Founded in 2011, Riviera Gardens aims at recreating the aura of the mythical Côte d’Azur. All five senses are embraced and given a rhythm with style. Riviera Gardens has a touch of that fervour of the collectors who bring rare plants from far away places. The garden is seen as a temple; plants become sacred, almost human, one-step closer to eternity. It is the place that brings people together in the most enchanting way. Isn’t this what life is all about?Riviera Gardens tells a story about an era of abundancevoyages and discovery.

What kind of gardens do you work on – what do people ask you to do?

From sumptuous to low maintenance, there is diversity in the demand. In places like Cap Ferrat or Cap d’Antibes, we are expected to create that “wow” factor in the garden conceptual design. Exotic plant varieties, a splash of colours next to a lush greenery wall, all together projected on to the blue canvas of the Mediterranean. The countryside is more appropriate to Provençal retreats, where time stands still, light is filtered through the leaves ofMillenarian olive trees, and you have the continuous cacophony of crickets all summer long. There are also the contemporary and minimalist roof terraces in Monaco or Cannes, where you get the perfect setting for an urban cocktail party. I love diversity and believe that every garden must be unique.

And so far, which projects rank among your favourites?

Oh, that is hard to answer. My team and I use the “passion ingredient” for all of the projects we are working on. Every project has its own particular story attached to it, since we spend hours and hours of our life on it. Personally, I have a particular interest in an on-going project in Saint-Jean Cap Ferrat. Part of a waterfront property is going to become a vertical garden with a breathtaking waterfall. Another favourite is a public square project in Cagnes-sur-Mer, the challenge being that it needs to give the feeling that the square existed for centuries.

From where do you get your inspiration?

From the beauty that surrounds me, the Côte d’Azur landscape with its dramatic volumes and colours. Simply looking into the heart of a flower can yield some fantastic ideas. I have a particular fondness for flowers, as they represent the ‘love’ period in the life of a plant. As Princess Grace of Monaco said in ‘My Book of Flowers‘, “…flowers have a language of their own that transcend international barriers. As with music, there is also timelessness about flowers and a sense of communication.” Travelling is definitely an endless source of inspiration. There is a scene that remains very clear in my mind ever since the journey – a rocky slope on the Greek Mediterranean coast covered with bay-laurel bushescypresses and towering twisting umbrella pines. This was one of those landscapes with such a harmony in scale and arrangement, which any designer tries to reach in their compositions. And, last, but by no means least, the precious people that surround me, friends and partners. They often teach me about generosity, dedication, courage, and wisdom.

Do you have favourite plants that you frequently work into your landscape designs? What are they and why are they a “must” in your designs?

In the rich world of plants having favourites sounds like discrimination. Nevertheless, cypresses and palm trees are often integrated into the conceptual design as they offer that vertical architectural feature that is reminiscent of columns in a temple. There are also the fragrant plants that should be in any garden: sweetly scented citrus blossomsjasminesheliotropesroseshoneysuckle and mimosas.

What would you say are the most challenging aspects of your job?

Making people understand that a sustainable garden needs time to develop. Making them understand the real cost and value of a beautiful garden in terms of time spent planning, dedication maintaining it, working with the best materials and people.

And the most rewarding?

Contemplating my own creations. I keep walking in that new garden repeating to myself: it is so beautiful, so beautiful, then seeing the big smile on the owner’s faces.

What are some of your professional goals for the future?

To create gardens in different parts of the world that will form an exquisite collection of views, styles and ambiances. The kind of portfolio that will make you feel you are travelling simply by looking at it.

Finally, can you tell us in a few words what you like so much about Monaco and the French Riviera?

Here you get bits of everything: landscape, lifestyle, cultural events, all kinds of people, high mountains, azure skies and the sea. The generous sun is embracing the coast so many days a year that growing beautiful flowering plants require less effort than anywhere else. As the French writer Colette said, “Monaco is the country where the frontiers are only flowers”

 

Photograph courtesy Stefana Savin and © Riviera Gardens

http://www.riviera-buzz.com/features/local-buzz/item/490-stefana-savin-gardens.html

 

MEET DORA TOKAI, A YOUNG FASHION DESIGNER BASED IN MONACO

Cet article a été publié dans Riviera Buzz en 2013 (this article was published in Riviera Buzz in 2013)

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Meet Dora Tokai, an up and coming Hungarian fashion designer based in Monaco, who is set to take on the world with her new collection.

After recently launching her own brand, D’Ora Tokai, Monaco-based Dora Tokai is currently in the running forVOGUE’s Young Vision Award with her collection ‘Heritage Revived‘. We recently met with Dora to learn more about this local young designer who is definitely ready to take on the world.

Hello Dora. First of all, can you tell us a little about yourself, your background?

I was born in Hungary and grew up surrounded by the arts, mostly fine and performance arts, thanks to my family. My first art exhibitions were as a teenager. Very early on I decided I wanted to see the world. So at the age of 16 I started living and studying aboard in FranceEngland and Spain, then began my professional life as an interior architect in Asia. I worked as a designer for a Japanese company and then later for a Singaporean company on luxury hospitality projects such as restaurantshotels and multibrand stores.

You have studied architecture, engineering and business so how did you become a fashion designer?

It all comes back to my early love for the arts. I have an urge to create and express myself visually, whether in the form of drawingarchitecture or couture. Couture is close to architecture, in both cases I seek an understanding of the client, a balance between aesthetics and function to create designs that withstand time.
I chose to complete an MBA in Luxury Goods & Services at the International University of Monaco as my previous experience taught me to seek excellence not only in design but also to focus on the service and business that is built around it.

Your current collection is entitled ‘Heritage Revived’, can you tell us a little about it?

The ‘Heritage Revived‘ collection encompasses the Heritage and Driver’s pieces. The Heritage pieces are contemporary and minimalistic reflections of baroque garments. The desirable characteristics of speed, freedom, passion and the beautiful streamlines of iconic cars give inspiration to the dynamic Driving pieces.

In general, what inspires you?

My source of inspiration is Monaco, with its rich motoring history and famed royalty, perfect for spinning contemporary fairy tales. I love pre-war vintage cars because they symbolise everything we stand for: elegance and innovation. Back then cars were made by hand and fully customised to each owner. Here at D’Ora Tokai we think along the same line. The sea also offers so much. Waves take many shapes and the colour changes in different light. The sea holds and gives many gems.

And which materials do you like to work with?

I like timeless materials of the highest quality such as fine leatherscotton poplins and smooth silks. Leather is sexy and elegant, silk is soft and luxurious with many faces depending on the angle from which we look at it. Leather is also challenging, takes ages to understand how to best handle it.

Which designers do you admire? In particular, which one would you like to work with and why?

I admired Coco Chanel for her pioneering approach towards fashion. Followed by Karl Lagerfeld, who is able to keep the core aesthetics of Chanel and yet inject new blood into every season. He is someone I respect tremendously and would be happy to work with. I also appreciate the endless creativity of Jean-Paul Gautier andJohn Galliano.

Where do you see yourself in ten years time?

In 10 years I hope to be established in all the global hotspots. Offering customers an innovative shopping experience including the use of a 3D body-scanner in stores to deliver the perfect fit. I would like to be seen as a brand that has returned to the real roots of customer service, yet using technology to enhance but not take over the human element. I also would like to introduce limited edition collections of an artistic and handmade quality to reviveold couture traditions, while supporting causes I believe in.

Could you imagine doing something else?

Varietas delectat. I am used to working across different cultures and industries. I would enjoy collaborating oninteriors or products.

Finally, what do you like so much about Monaco and the French Riviera?

I have loved the Mediterranean since a child, I always imagined living by the sea. The French Riviera has its unique charm. Monaco is my source of inspiration; I find it easy to relate to its heritage and the unique beauty of this enclave of luxury, which sits on crystal clear waters.

Thank you Dora for taking the time to answer our questions and the very best of luck with the Vogue competition.

To learn more about Dora’s brand, D’Ora Tokai, you can visit her website. You can also vote for her at the VOGUE Young Vision Award – you have until the 26th of August to do so, and you could also be in with the chance to win a €500 voucher for yourself as well! #MxVT13

Photograph courtesy of Dora Tokai

http://www.riviera-buzz.com/lifestyle/style/item/371-dora-tokai.html

MEET DENA LYONS, AN UP-AND-COMING AMERICAN PAINTER BASED IN MONACO

Cet article a été publié dans Riviera Buzz en 2013 (this article was published in Riviera Buzz in 2013)

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Contemporary American artist, Dena Lyons, takes time out of her busy schedule to talk to us about her upcoming exhibition in Beausoleil.

Entitled ‘Trees‘, the exhibition features trees of different sorts, shapes and colours, and revolves around la joie de vivre. A few days before the opening, we met with this talented artist who now calls Monaco home.

Dena, could you describe your background a little for our readers– what got you into the arts, and in particular painting?

I started finger painting the first day of nursery school – it was my favorite activity already at the age of 2. I proceeded to attend magnet programs for the arts in Florida, and then I went to the School of the Art Institute of Chicago for college. Paintbrushes grew out of the ends of my fingers, and therefore made the choice to paint easy.

How would you describe your art?

My paintings are dynamic, contemporary, figurative pieces, normally made with oil and wax on canvas, full of energy, defined by subtle color choices.

Who influenced you? And how?

Everyone that walks into my life or through my line of vision. My neighbour, Mme. Lollipop and her positivity, my friend Gregg and his determination to do things the right way and efficiently, Morandi for his simplicity of form and palette and the monumental works that he creates with it, Wayne Thiebaud for his icing-like paint that you want to eat, it is so creamy, Thomas Friedman for the wit in his sculptures, Albert Camus for his sense of isolation in the world, Benny Goodman for adding verve into my life, and the pigeon that landed on my back thinking I had become one of the trees that I paint, for helping me to understand what it is like to be a tree.

Your upcoming exhibition which is opening this 4th of April in Beausoleil is entitled ‘Trees’. Can you tell us a little bit more about it?

In life, it is important to use the minimum in order to make the maximum. I paint individual trees because of their simple nature, creating something profound out of a singular, minimal subject. Trees are as varied in form as humans are, every one with a different shape, size, and colouration. Each portrait of a tree represents a different aspect of thehuman condition: desire, hope, humility, and revery, among others. Most of the paintings are similar to size to that of a human, as if you are standing in front of another person. In this exhibition, ‘Trees‘, you will be amidst a garden of trees.

What is the biggest challenge you are currently facing as an artist?

The biggest challenge as an artist in 2013 is surviving in a global economic crisis without compromising the quality of the work to commerciality.

What has been the biggest victory or success in your art career so far?

My biggest success was moving to France with only one contact, no money, and living off of my paintings for 10 years. In the process I travelled through most of the regions of France and embarked on amazing adventures.

And what’s next for you now? Do you have any short term or long term artistic goals?

Short term goal…I would like to attack a 10 foot canvas or larger to recreate a life size tree, instead of being limited by my size or that of the room I may be painting in. Long term goal…it is hard to think of the future when you live in, and are happy with, the present.

ou are American but you live in Monaco. What do you like about the French Riviera?

After travelling for five years through the countryside of France, not having found a city that suited my energetic and creative nature, I moved back to Chicago. When I discovered Monaco, ever so cosmopolitan and majestically beautiful at the same time, carved into the hills, I melted. It has the best of all worlds, a plethora of subjects to paint, diversity of people to exchange ideas with, and the wonderful traditions of French culture that linger still in the quality and leisurely pace of life.

We would like to thank Dena (pictured below) very much for taking the time to talk to us, and we wish her the very best of luck with the exhibition. To find out more about Dena’s work, you can visit her website. The exhibition, Trees, runs from the 4th of April to the 3rd of May, 2013.

Image courtesy Dena Lyons

http://www.riviera-buzz.com/features/local-buzz/item/217-dena-lyons.html