[caption id="attachment_25152" align="alignnone" width="960"] Christmas swim in Monaco December 24, 2016. Photo: Facebook Association Les Amis du Bain de Noël de Monaco[/caption]
Today is November 15. This morning I roused a few Christmas decorations from hibernation and placed them enthusiastically on the mantle as Holiday Radio played non-stop Christmas Classics on my internet radio.
My Joy to the World spirit wasn’t always so. As a child, Christmas was a happy time, a household full of friends and family, music and Grandma Gray’s shortbread. I was in the church junior choir, and my mom, a classically trained contralto who turned mezzo-then-soprano, accompanied us on the piano.
But I have never been at ease with the commercial side of the holiday – it still strikes me odd that we have to buy something for someone – and for as long as I can remember, would volunteer at a home for the elderly, a soup kitchen, or a suicide hot line on December 25. As I got older, I moved around a lot, within Canada and France and eventually Christmas was a day far removed from carols and eggnog with loved ones.
That all changed in November 2008 when I was invited to visit Santa Claus at the opening of Santa’s Village in Lapland, on the border of the Arctic Circle, courtesy of Finnair and Rovaniemi Tourism.
Like any other interview, I did my research. Since 1985, Santa had been greeting some 300,000 visitors each day of the year in his “office” – a welcoming room with a fireplace, sacks of gifts, bookshelves and a photo-taking elf and dominated by a 10 metre cogwheel, known as the earth’s rotation device.
It wasn’t just children who waited for their turn to sit on Santa’s knee. As I made way along the winding corridor, thousands of photos, from international celebrities to public figures with St Nick, lined the walls.
I wrote at the time, “It is here in this room where the untainted faith of our youth, when anything was possible, resurfaces; as though the confession of an innermost wish to a gigantic man in a red suit puts you in good graces with higher powers. It is, quite simply, magic.”
And that’s when it happened. Santa asked me what I wanted for Christmas, and I felt childlike and wide-eyed, I believed anything was possible.
The jadedness that had slowly blinded my vision over all the years melted away and was replaced by hope.
I flew back to Nice and booked a flight to Toronto on December 25 to surprise my family. On Christmas Day, I showed up at my sister’s doorstep and had a truly memorable visit.
I went into the New Year chiming “in 2009, dreams will be mine”. Nine months later, I reconnected with the love of my life, who had proposed to me in 1993 after we met on a French immersion program in Quebec. He moved to France and we married on December 24 in 2010. Yup, he too loves Christmas.
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So when I heard last year about the annual Christmas swim in Monaco on December 24, organised by the Association les Amis du Bain de Noël de Monaco, I was ecstatic. My favourite holiday combined with my favourite sport and for charity.
Some 150 people turned out – families with kids, couples on bikes, friends and colleagues – sporting Santa hats, red t-shirts and even costumes to spend a convivial morning on the beach and enjoying the music and entertainment.
This year’s Bain de Noel, 10 am at Larvotto’s Rose des Vents beach, will be the very first time in the event’s thirteen years that the swim will take place on Saturday, December 16, instead of the day before Christmas due to a schedule conflict (no, not with Santa).
Money raised, as always, will be donated to a Monaco-based charitable organisation. This year les Amis du Bain have chosen an association that supports children of the Monaco Police force who are in difficulty – L'Amicale d'Entraide et de Prévoyance des Fonctionnaires de la Sûreté Publique.
On-site registration, €10, includes a raffle ticket, croissants and coffee.
I’m giving a month's notice in sending out a Monaco Life challenge to all of you – sports groups and clubs (COCC, AS Monaco rugby and friends, BOOST, Club 39), social and non-profit associations (Outward Bound Monaco, Child CARE Monaco, Monaco Air League, TEDx), restaurants and entrepreneurs (Stars'nBars, Blue Coast Brewing Company, MonacoTech, l'Orangerie, Les Femmes Chefs d’Entreprises de Monaco, JCEM), my fellow journalists at Riviera Radio, Monaco-Matin, Monaco Info, and, of course, students at ISM and IUM – whether you live in Monaco or not, to come out and smash last year’s number of 150 participants for the annual Christmas swim.
Before you moan about the cold sea temperature, think about it this way. I’m asking you to stand or dip into the 15°C water for a group photo. Yes, it’s going to be uncomfortable, but facing that challenge for five minutes is nothing compared to what these kids face for an entire lifetime.
Ho, ho, hope … see you December 16.
For more see the Association Les Amis du Bain de Noël de Monaco's Facebook page @baindenoelmonaco. Article first published November 15, 2017.
[caption id="attachment_26287" align="alignnone" width="640"] Photo: Ed Wright Images[/caption]
In 2002, Action Innocence was set up in Monaco to talk to school children and adolescents about the dangers of the internet, which nowadays includes cyberbulling, sexual predators, pornography and damaged reputations.
Every year, with the cooperation of the Department of Education, the non-profit organisation has a team of trained psychologists that visit each primary and secondary school throughout the Principality, to explain the associated risks that come with online connectivity and to try to instil an ethic and proper conduct while using the internet.
“We don’t shock the students,” Nick Danziger, Vice-President of Action Innocence and award winning photographer, told Monaco Life. “We work very hard to create an awareness in the classroom. And this also means that no child hears the same message twice from our association.”
Over the past fifteen years, more than 53,000 children have benefited from Action Innocence’s prevention program.
Listening to Nick, who sits in on as many of the classroom sessions as he can, my jaw hangs open as I learn what some young people are looking at on their phones, or what they are being exposed to in the world’s best-selling video game – rape or, in another game, as one boy described, the ability to “buy women”; their parents ignorant of the game’s Advisory Warning.
Founded by its president, Louisette Lévy-Soussan Azzoaglio, Action Innocence has one annual fundraiser, the spectacular charity Christmas tree auction in the lobby of the Hotel de Paris, which will take place this Thursday, December 14, at 6:30 pm, in the presence of the association’s patron, HSH Prince Albert II.
“Each year, between 26 to 33 trees are donated by benefactors, and we are hopeful to raise €80,000,” Nick stated.
Part of the monies raised go towards the purchase of safe webcams, ones that cannot be pirated and used by someone with bad intentions, which Action Innocence provides to all students in its prevention campaign.
The funds are also used to pay the salaries of the psychologists and to provide various tools such as educational mousepads and pay for printed materials like posters and helpline cards.
The Christmas tree auction on Thursday is open to the public but get there early, it’s standing room only. If you can’t make it but want to donate €100, download a form from their website.
Action Innocence will hold its next informative meetings for parents on Thursday, February 8, 2018 at 8 pm.
[caption id="attachment_26270" align="alignnone" width="640"] Professeur Bertrand Mathieu, Gianni Buquicchio and Christophe Sosso. Photo: DR[/caption]
Following the appointment of Laurent Anselmi as Director of Judicial Services of the Principality, the position of representative of Monaco to the Venice Commission was entrusted to Professor Bertrand Mathieu.
Accompanied by Christophe Sosso, substitute member, also representing the Principality, Professor Mathieu participated in the 113th General Session of the Venice Commission, held on December 8 and 9.
The Venice Commission, the European Commission for Democracy through Law, is a consultative body specialising in constitutional law, set up by the Council of Europe.
Based in Venice, it includes independent experts from all of its member states, as well as observers from every continent. The next session will be held on March 16 and 17, 2018.
[caption id="attachment_10431" align="alignnone" width="640"] Photo: Valeriesophie[/caption]
French daily Le Parisien has reported that the population of Paris fell by 13,660 people between 2009 and 2014. The 1st, 2nd, 4th and 8th arrondissements all saw a drop in numbers of more than one percent.
Intriguingly, the falling permanent population has been blamed largely on Airbnb, which had 60,000 listings for France’s capital in 2015, compared to 4,000 in 2012. Jean-François Legaret, mayor of the 1st arrondissement, told the daily that the Airbnb phenomenon has been a “catastrophe” for central Paris. The Town Hall has estimated that 20,000 primary residences have been lost to temporary rentals, and has threatened to increase taxes on what it calls “second homes”.
Throughout France, hoteliers have complained that the “unregulated” market in accommodation services is having a major detrimental impact on their business operations.
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As the stars start to arrive in Cannes, where as many as 200,000 visitors are expected, local authorities have given strong assurances regarding public safety for those attending the 70th annual Film Festival.
The Maritime Prefecture of the Mediterranean said that from May 17 until May 28, the closing date of the festival, to ensure the safety of those present in the "Fanzone" in Cannes, a special maritime security system has been established, based around two restricted zones, one with a speed limit of five knots and a second inner zone with a speed limit of three knots. The strategy is to deal with any attempt by terrorists to reach the Festival from the sea.
In its communiqué, the Maritime Prefecture added: "The Maritime Gendarmerie will coordinate the resources of the State's naval divisions in the area – Navy, Maritime Police, Departmental Gendarmerie, Customs, Maritime Affairs and National Police. The mission is to ensure the control of the maritime area of the Bay of Cannes and, in particular the immediate approaches of the festival palace, the port and the beach, to inform, detect, question, control and neutralise if necessary all suspicious movements.”
In addition, "Other marine facilities are also placed on alert and capable of reinforcing the system on the orders of the Maritime Prefect." The maritime precautions are being put in place to complement heightened security on land.