End of an era: Stars’N’Bars to close its doors forever

Stars’N’Bars cofounders Didier Rubiolo and Kate Powers. Photo: Nancy Heslin

In my last interview with Kate Powers, in November 2020, the late cofounder of Stars’N’Bars told me, “Lockdown helped us to wake up to necessary ecological changes that were more important than economical ones. Stars’N’Bars is only getting started on their ecological journey.”

Although at the time she could not reveal details about the vision she and cofounder Didier Rubiolo had planned, she did say, “We realise how much people don’t like change but if we want to make a difference, we must change our habits. The planet can do without us but we can’t do without the planet. There will big changes in spring 2021.”

Kate’s death in August 2021 overshadowed the transformation of Stars’N’Bars but now it is official that Monaco’s go-to family-friendly restaurant for nearly 30 years – where Prince once played a secret concert, where Michael Schumacher drank victory beers with his racing team and where Prince Albert and his daughter Jazmin Grace took part in the annual Quiz Night – will close its doors permanently on January 27.

“It has been an honour to serve millions of guests from all over the world and we especially want to thank the Monaco community for its amazing support,” expresses Didier, who started

Stars’N’Bars with Kate back in ’93 to provide regular people beyond the jet-setters “reasonably priced and quality dining outside the home.” The pair converted an abandoned warehouse into what is today an 1800-square-metre hospitality centre with over half a million customers served every year.

A classically-trained chef with experience in gastronomic restaurants in France and Monaco, Didier first met Kate at her family-run “Le Texan”, the first Tex-Mex restaurant in Monaco and a favourite of Prince Rainier (who gave it the name). Didier went on to revolutionise Monaco’s dining scene by upgrading American Tex-Mex fare at Stars’N’Bars to eventually incorporating an international selection of Asian, Indian and Middle Eastern dishes. Kate may have been more in the public eye over the years, but it was Didier who drove “the restaurant’s shift towards vegetarian and vegan options.

“When Kate and I opened Stars’N’Bars we wanted to give Monaco something new, original and exciting.” Didier recalls. “Our concept was a great success but eventually we realized that we wanted to make a bigger difference in the wellbeing of our community and the planet, especially for our children.”

Stars’N’Bars began developing a “healthier dining experience” and supporting Prince Albert’s environmental protection efforts, including adopting renewable energy sources, finding new ways to reducing waste and creating the first Monaco-based urban vegetable garden as a source of fresh produce and seasonings for restaurant use.

Didier Rubiolo on 2021 World Clean Up Day distributing pocket ashtrays. Photo: Instagram starsnbarsmc

Kate and Didier joined other eco-conscious activists in Monaco to create MONACOLOGY, the week-long educational experience every June to help school children learn how to respect their planet. “We all need to accept that climate change threatens the planet and our children’s lives. Kate and I decided that we wanted to raise conscientiousness about that threat and help the community find solutions,” Didier highlights.

The avid cyclist adds, “It will be sad to say goodbye to Stars’N’Bars after 30 years but it’s time to create something even more special. We will be releasing details of a new project soon and we can’t wait to take the next step!”

Didier, Annette Anderson and the Stars’N’Bars team plan to make the most of the next two months by hosting special animations along with reintroducing popular “nostalgia” blast-from the-past dishes that are not on the current menu. Their social media feed will include throwback images and videos from “unforgettable events over the last three decades, including Halloween, the Fourth of July, Grand Prix, a concert by Prince and surprise visits by international celebrities.”

Kate Powers and Annette Anderson celebrating Fourth of July.. Photo: Instagram starsnbarsmc

And you, the much-loved community who have helped make Stars’N’Bars the institution it has become, will be invited to post your favourite Stars’N’Bars memory to help create a permanent online “living history” of the restaurant. Photo opportunities will be staged for those who want to be “immortalised” as part of the famous restaurant décor and atmosphere before it disappears forever in January.

“Everyone wants to know about our new next step but we really want to focus the last two months of Stars’N’Bars on celebrating 30 years of amazing memories with our customers and staff,” shares Annette.

Stars’N’Bars has always been there for us. Let’s be there for them until January 27 when the doors close for the last time. As Kate always said, “Do what you love. Love what you do. And make a difference.”

Caro Cuinet Wellings

Photo: Garderes & Dohmen

Caro Cuinet Wellings grew up in a small village near Aix-en-Provence but from a young age knew that she would travel, live abroad and speak English. “And that is what I did. During my LLCE degree at the Université de Lettres of Aix en Provence, I came across a poster advertising a Post Graduate Certificate of Education. That led me to St. Martin’s University in Lancaster to be a secondary school teacher, teaching French as a foreign language. I began that career in August 2000 in Kenya.” By 2009, she was teaching at the International School in Dubai, married and welcoming her first daughter.

“Teaching filled my life, it really did,” Caro says, “and I was a good at it. But when the possibility of moving to Malaysia came up, I decided to explore a new path for myself and stepped away from my 12-year career in education. The move to Kuala Lumpur was tough as I embarked on setting up a photography business, with little knowledge of how to run one, barely the skills to take photos and without the support of friends there.”

After the birth of her second daughter in March 2014, Caro suffered post-natal depression. “We spent six years in Kuala Lumpur, it is a place paved by fabulous friendships, fantastic trips, even better food, but also big heartaches, discoveries and great courage.” The family relocated to France in 2018 and Caro describes it as “perhaps the hardest move I have ever had to make. To put it simply, I felt like an expat in my home country.”

She focused on the teaching and coaching side of her photography business. Fast forward four years, she runs two workshops a year on creativity, light and building a visual identity as a photographer. Her online course on the Empara platform has motivated family photographers and somehow the mom of two has found time to develop a one-on-one coaching program. This is all in addition to her group mentoring day, where photographers can experience everything from pre-shoot to photo delivery.

Photo: Caro Cuinet Wellings

“My scope has grown. I shoot families in their homes but have loved taking lifestyle photos of private chefs and maison d’hôtes. I also photograph clothing collections working as part of a team with an agency in Barcelona and work with big education companies for their marketing materials.”

Caro says “our potential for learning is bottomless” and that anyone can develop a photographer’s eye. “I believe in having a vocabulary to help name what we see, so we can understand how elements of a scene work together. No need for a fancy camera to be able to do this, as our eyes are really the key – observing, taking the time to see, to name and to put things together.”

The Biot-based artist knows what she is talking about. Caro’s book Voir la lumière: #100daysoflumière will be available January 5, 2023, but is available pre-sale now on Amazon and Fnac.

“I once said to my now 13-year-old daughter: ‘I have a book in me.’ I didn’t know which book or what it was going to be about.” During lockdown in Eze in April 2020, Caro invited photographers to join her to find light. “Hundreds of photographers followed the project that consisted in taking and publishing one photo a day. The aim was to photograph the confinement but always trying to find the light and improve technique and art. I am so happy and humbled to have been able to gather a supportive and creative community during a time that was really difficult for some of us.”

The challenge led her to revisit the “book in me”. In 2021, she saw the amount of content she had created. “I had sent many newsletters about photography techniques but also about mindsets and how to cope with challenges, where and how to find creativity and inspiration. I had interviews with colleagues recorded on podcasts and countless pages of notes that had piled over the years doing the challenges. And, of course, some 600 photos created for them.”

Photo: Caro Cuinet Wellings

By the end of the year, she said to herself saisi mon courage à deux mains and wrote a pitch to Eyrolles, a publishing house that specialises in editing photography books. “I started writing in February 2022 when I got the go ahead and now it’s going to print nine months later. My third baby!”

She knew she would travel and learn English. She knew she would write a book. What next for Caro? “I always have projects swirling around in my head. I have dreams of exhibitions of the work created for the challenge, setting up a yearly festival with a conference around it and let it be a forum for exciting learning and human experiences. I want to continue to photographing families and women entrepreneurs. I want to continue my work with other photographers in my workshops or via coaching and see them grow and blossom in what they do. I feel a lot of happiness seeing them in their own paths for the success they have designed for themselves.”

All photos courtesy Caro Cuinet Wellings.

Ecoute Cancer Réconfort

Photo: Manuel Vitali/Direction de la Communication

In October, the Princess Grace Hospital Centre launched its BreastDay Centre devoting a single day to screening, diagnosis and pre-therapeutic support for breast cancer – with having results the same day.

Cancer support is something Valérie Barilaro knows all about. “My father, who left too soon and too young, died of cancer 25 years ago. And as a beautician, which is about wellbeing, touch and listening, I naturally leaned towards helping and supporting others, in particular with Ecoute Cancer Réconfort.”

For the past seven years, Valérie has been president of Ecoute Cancer Réconfort, which on November 29 will celebrate its 30-year anniversary at the Monaco Yacht Club in the presence of Prince Albert and the association’s honorary president, Princess Stephanie.

I had the genuine pleasure to meet Valérie and learn about Ecoute Cancer Réconfort at a MonacoUSA event at Before back in March. The Monegasque association was created in 1992. “Thirty years ago, supportive did not really exist for cancer patients,” explains Valérie. “Our first president, Martine Vacarezza, realised there is an emptiness when you come out of heavy treatments after spending months going to the hospital almost daily. Overnight there is nothing left, no more appointments for three months for that first post-cancer assessment. On the outside everything seems great but for a cancer patient a deep anxiety sets in with the loss of those reassuring hospital landmarks – meeting doctors, routine tests – even if you just want to take your life back.”

Martine had the idea of ​​setting up a support hotline but quickly Ecoute Cancer Réconfort’s founding members understood that more was needed. In the days before VLS (Véhicule Sanitaire Léger/Light Medical Vehicle) taxis that were reimbursed drove people to the hospital, the association offered a car service driven by volunteers to get cancer patients to their treatments. Over time, with a few succeeding presidents, the association evolved with volunteers keeping cancer patients company during chemotherapy.

In 2009, the life-changing Espace Mieux Etre opened its doors at l’Atalante in Fontvieille. This non-medical day care center specialises in free cancer support care provided by seasoned professionals, from psychologists who also practice art therapy through drawing, writing or painting to naturopaths (energy, plantar reflexology, mindfulness meditation, advice on nutrition). Socio-aesthetics (social and aesthetic care) is also on the menu to help manage self-image and confidence in a post-cancer world with treatment side-effects on the skin and nails, as well as alopecia and scarring. Espace Mieux Etre likewise offers sport activities essential to rehabilitation, including tai chi, yoga and hiking, as well as various workshops throughout of the year, in particular, a “self-esteem weekend”.

For anyone like me who has witnessed a family member or friend undergo cancer treatment , this association hits home. Espace Mieux Etre is open to anyone affected by cancer, undergoing treatment or in remission, as well as their families and loved ones, in Monaco and its surroundings.

One cancer patient shares, “There is no way to absorb the news of a doctor announcing face-to-face: ‘You have cancer.’ Time stops and quickly you enter into another world. You do what you have to do but it is not enough. Ecoute Cancer Réconfort is the beginning of mental recovery, a new way of absorbing your sickness. Providing all the various help you need, physical and psychological, in parallel to the treatments, they help you to regain your self-esteem, your strength and advance in your new life. They are not an option, they are an absolute necessity to your full recovery.”

Another expresses, “Ecoute Cancer Réconfort offers us a life despite the disease. We are pampered, like in a cocoon, and this allows us to face everyday life with greater ease. Psychologists, energy treatments, socio-beautician, meditation, conferences, hikes, various and varied workshops punctuate our daily lives and contribute to our wellbeing. The psychological support from each therapist, as well as the benevolence of the volunteers, allows us to go through this period as calmly as possible but also to prepare our future solidly.

“The association is a refuge, a bubble of oxygen and sometimes happiness in our daily lives, and helps us to grow, evolve and come out stronger than before the disease. We can confide without a filter, share our doubts and our fears, which we try to spare our loved ones. It is also very comforting to know that spouses or family can benefit from this support because they need it as much as we do. I am grateful to Ecoute Cancer Réconfort, I wouldn’t be who I am without their help.”

Valérie adds, “A supported patient is a patient who is doing better, who can express his or her fears, talk, exchange with a professional or another patient, or quite simply find an attentive ear, which may not necessarily be the case at home with family or friends. What we see is the evolution of patients over their time with us. Their evolution, their dynamism, their way of bouncing back from the disease when they are accompanied along their journey. We are not concerned only with statistics. ”

This year, Valérie approached Natasha Frost-Savio, president of Pink Ribbon Monaco to help them spread their message during breast cancer month and on Valérie’s initiative, all civil servants in the Principality wore a pink ribbon as a gesture of support and solidarity on October 6. “Even though Pink Ribbon specialises in breast cancer prevention and Ecoute Cancer Réconfort wears several hats, we are partners, like a sorority, and very complementary. Prevention is essential so that we have fewer serious cases on our end.”

The association organises a members’ dinner during the winter and lunch in the summer. “This year for Pink October we had a pink hike where patients could bring whoever they wanted. It gave us the idea to offer it to members for next year. Otherwise, there is the galette des rois in January and the general assembly which allows us to meet our members.”

Valérie says that Ecoute Cancer Réconfort has invited members, sponsors and partners to the anniversary event on November 29, we to says thanks to those who have supported us all these years and without whom this would not be possible. “But we always need new sponsors, donors, members and volunteers to continue our actions because more and more people are becoming sick.”

To donate, volunteer, become a member or learn more, see the Ecoute Cancer Réconfort website.

CHPG’s BreastDay Centre is open Monday to Thursday 9 to 12 and 1 to 5 and Friday to 3:30. For more info, contact +377 97 98 99 55 or contact.sein@chpg.mc

First Period Kits given free to ASM footballers

In March of this year, Red Box Project Monaco became Monarègles, a campaign that looks to break the taboo around periods and advocate the wider distribution of organic period protection to young girls in the Principality and, in particular, to young athletes.

The initiative comes from the Monaco association SheCanHeCan (SCHC), run by its unstoppable founder Vibeke Thomson. “Red Box Project Monaco was designed for schools,” explains Vibeke, “encouraging them to provide free period products for their students. In 2022, we changed the name to Monarègles to include companies and institutions. The Columbus Hotel is the first hotel to sign up in Monaco and from Wednesday, the largest private sector employer in Monaco, SBM Offshore will also provide period products via Monarègles to their teams.”

From Friday, SCHC will offer its First Periods Kits to young players in the U14 and U15 categories of ASM FF (women’s football). Céline Cottalorda, who heads the committee to promote and safeguard women’s rights in the Principality, will be on hand.

“The aim in providing Kits to the ASM FF is threefold,” says Vibeke. “First, to inform young players about their periods and the impact it might have on their performance. Second, to inform them about the importance of using organic products, which are better for them and for the planet – and also to advise them which products are best for their bodies. And third, to promote an open discussion and answer questions to help break the taboo around periods.”

First Periods Kits offered to young players in the U14 and U15 categories of ASM FF.

The teenagers will also receive the guide “Everything about your first periods” designed by SCHC which talks about physical and emotional changes, different period products and how men and boys can best support girls on their periods. 

The kit also includes a packet containing 18 period protections from the English brand Freda, 1 sachet of FabLittleBag. Kits were also distributed by SCHC at the Don Bosco school in Nice with the financial support of CFM Indosuez.

On October 11, SCHC celebrated the Day of the Girl for the fifth consecutive year at the Conseil National but this was the first official event for parliament’s new president, Brigitte Boccones-Pages. “It was highly significant that the event took place a few days after her election as for the first time, students could witness a woman holding the highest office within the National Council, as well as the many female MPs. It reminds me of the saying – ‘You can’t be what you can’t see.’ And it’s a great inspiration for all students to see a woman president for the first time.”

By signing up to Monarègles with SCHC, companies commit to providing free period products to their teams and, in turn, through their commitment SCHC is also able to give back to the community and provide more period products to schools and women in need, such as refugees and victims of domestic violence.

SheCanHeCan was created in 2011 to help individuals to challenge gender stereotypes.

Period products in the staff bathrooms of Columbus Hotel.

TEDxYouth Monaco: ‘It’s a relief to speak and to know that everyone is listening’

Alicia Sedgwick, author of Communicating Through Change: Lessons Learned From Real Life, teaches Public Speaking, Presentation and Communication Skills at the International University of Monaco. She also works with all backgrounds and all ages, from corporations to private clients and students at the International School of Monaco (ISM). “It is so interesting that small children in their early years can talk freely and chatter without filter but then when they get to primary school age, all that lack of inhibition becomes clouded and they close up.”

Alicia says her training helps students “to open up again, to be free of worries, cares and anxieties when they communicate so they can move through their teens and into adulthood with their self-esteem raised, and the ability to communicate effectively.” And confidence in communicating is essential whether it be through digital communication (online, social media, Zoom), for school or university presentations, or for personal and professional relationships.

Which is why the TEDxYouth event this Saturday, October 15, from 2-4 pm, at ISM is such a huge deal. Its speakers are all ISM students ages 10 to 17. “The aim is not only to raise the profile of TEDxYouth, but to promote its significance as the only TEDxYouth event in the Principality,” says Alicia. This event is open to the public and you can register and sign up for a ticket ( €10) directly from the International School of Monaco website.

“So many of the children who do put themselves forward for the TEDxYouth auditions are way out of their comfort zone. I have had students who speak so quietly, or shift about when they talk, and do not engage, then perform at TEDxYouth with such power and control that I am so impressed and proud.”

The international platform of students presenting include Amael Anwar (Switzerland), Olivia Chisholm (UK and South Africa), Solomon Passegger (Austria), Sophia Zweegers (Morocco and the Netherlands), Margherita Sparaco (Italy), Amelia Banks Clark (UK) and well as Celeste Maximiana Schofield.

Speaker Amali Benner shares, “A lot of my friends call me a chatterbox because I talk so much. But I recently learned that talking just for the sake of talking is rambling and purely a waste of words. I joined TEDxYouth to, like most people, improve my speaking skills.”

For 10-year-old Alexandra Vlad (France and Romania), “I joined TEDx to improve my confidence on stage and possibly to help defeat my slight stage fright. Also, I want to improve my ability to really express myself. In the past I have sometimes been afraid to express myself because I thought that nobody would really listen to me, but it’s such a relief to speak and to know that everyone is listening to me.”

ISM recently held a successful Quiz Night to raise awareness for this second edition of TEDxYouth. “Shasta Almi, the school’s Marketing and Public Relations Coordinator, and Director of Studies Hannah Gettel, who serves on the organising committee, are incredible women and have been amazingly dedicated to the TEDxYouth event.”

2021 TEDxYouth @ISMonaco

D’Amore Psy Monaco

Prince Albert at D’Amore Psy Monaco cycling event. Photo: Facebook GEMM D’Amore Psy Monaco

According to WHO and a report by the Institute of Health Metrics and Evaluation, schizophrenia affects 1 in 300 people worldwide and, in 2019, 1 in every 8 people were living with a mental disorder, anxiety and depressive disorders. In 2020, that figure spiked by 26% due to the Covid pandemic. WHO stated, “While effective prevention and treatment options exist, most people with mental disorders do not have access to effective care. Many people also experience stigma, discrimination and violations of human rights.”

Monaco’s Department of Health Affairs is taking mental health seriously and in March launched a plan of 53 initiatives spread over five years, from 2022 to 2027, to improve the monitoring and available care in terms of well-being and psychological balance.

“We are not embarrassed to go see a doctor when we have a health problem. But we are embarrassed to go see a psychiatric or psychological professional, even though it can be useful to us,” said former minister of health Didier Gamerdinger (He was named Monaco’s ambassador to Tokyo in August.)

People with severe and persistent mental disorders – those who are schizophrenic, bipolar, suffer severe depression, personality disorder or obsessive compulsive disorder – struggle with isolation, difficulty in keeping their job, a place to live and in maintaining social and family ties.

Monegasque Karine Latore wrote La force de vaincre (The Strength to Overcome; Editions LC, 2019) detailing her 20-year battle with schizophrenia, beginning with her first experience of depression at age 16 and how she lives in and out of hospitalisations while fighting psychological demons in her daily life. One euro from each book purchase is donated to the association D’Amore Psy Monaco – an association for the regrouping of families and friends of people with mental illness and mental health users – and to GEMM, the Monegasque Mutual Support Group.

Karine’s mother, Béatrice, is president of D’Amore Psy Monaco, an association under the Honorary Presidency of Prince Albert, created in June 2008 to provide help, support and information to families affected by psychiatric disorders.

Béatrice says the non-profit acts as “the essential intermediary with government authorities and the medical profession in order to meet the needs and expectations of families and patients.” D’Amore Psy works with the Psychiatry Department of the Princess Grace Hospital Centre and at UPPM – the Roseraie Unit of Psychiatry and Medical Psychology (7 bis ave des Ligures).

Photo:: Facebook GEMM D’Amore Psy Monaco

Alongside D’Amore Psy, there is GEMM. Founded in 2016, GEMM is for Monegasque nationals and residents who suffer from isolation as a result of psychological and social difficulties and justify psychiatric monitoring in the Principality. Located at 3 ave Pasteur (+377 93 25 12 50), the day-time centre offers members the opportunity of reweaving social ties through cultural and leisure activities, which are chosen and led by fellow members in a spirit of mutual understanding.

“The psychiatry department at CHPG and UPPM in Monaco takes care of patients medically, At GEMM, we take charge of fun activities,” says Béatrice.

D’Amore Psy is a partner of UNAFAM France (National Union of Families and Friends of Sick and/or Psychically Disabled Persons), which is running its 2022 Mental Health Awareness Weeks (Semaines d’information sur la santé mentale) from October 10 to 23 with the theme “Mental health and the environment”. There are several events being organised across the Alpes-Maritimes.

In Monaco, a performance of Un nénuphar dans ma baignoire (A water lily in my bathtub) will be performed at the Théâtre des Variétés on Thursday, October 13 at 8 pm. It is the story of Dr Constantin Pirdas, an ordinary man with a secret: he is bipolar. His artist daughter immerses the audience in the marvellous and dark world of this strange madness. A round table discussion led by mental health workers in Monaco will follow the play. Ticket sales (€20 or for members, €15) will support D’Amore Psy and can be reserved: damorepsy@monaco.mc or call 06 37 58 25 13.

You can also support D’Amore Psy and their bid to have a larger GEMM facility by buying a memberships (€50/year) or making an online donation.

For Béatrice, D’Amore Psy’s mission in Monaco is ongoing : “Demystifying mental illness, providing ongoing care for patients and support for families.”

A reminder that during Mental Health Awareness Weeks, Gavin Sharpe of Riviera Wellbeing in Monaco is offering a taste of The Good Life on October 15. “Mental health is not a topic historically associated with Monaco. I hope we can move the dial.”

Jill Shepperd

Jill Shepperd and Deborah Frost of Niche Books Valbonne.

Jill Shepperd was instilled with a love of books from birth. Her mother was a librarian, then the owner of a small bookshop but when she passed away, Jill was too young to be interested in running the business. “Wanting to travel, I worked in various travel agencies over the years before relocating to here in 1994 with my then husband,” says the Whitley Bay native.

Jill is co-owner of Niche Books Valbonne but many of us know her from when she ran the English Book Centre (EBC) on rue Alexis Julien. “I first started working part-time for the owners Sue and Mike Abrahams in 1996, alongside part-time working as a TEFL teacher – new country, new types of job! In 2002, my husband and I were divorcing and I had to choose whether to stay in France or return to the UK. Coincidentally, Sue and Mike decided they wanted to retire, so I took the plunge and bought the business.”

She says she loved the shop as it provided an amazing opportunity to meet many interesting people and be part of the local community “but it was – and still is – hard work! As with any business in France, there are many social charges, restrictions and admin hurdles to overcome but the great thing about being an independent bookshop is complete freedom of choice for stock titles you think will interest the clientele. We held several book signings with various authors, including Carol Drinkwater, Maureen Emerson, Ted Jones, Michael Nelson and Stephen Clarke.”

The EBC turned into a hub for the local Anglophone community, putting people in touch with each other, creating social opportunities for new arrivals to the area and, during the summer, the shop became “the English-speaking Tourist Office.” Soon, local international schools also traded with Jill at EBC.

Which made it even more of “a very difficult decision to sell” the shop to Lin Wolff in 2009. “There were many personal reasons and complications. Lin had worked for me for several years and, like me, was a bookaholic. I left the shop in very good hands.”

After the sale, Jill needed to work again, so returned to teaching and became involved with the Sunnybank Association in Mouans Sartoux, volunteering in their library. “I did however, return to work in the bookshop from time to time when Lin needed staffing help.”

Fast forward to post-Covid lockdowns in 2022. By then, Lin had returned to the US permanently and was obliged to sell the lease for 12 rue Alexis Julien. Deborah Frost, who had worked for Lin for many years, and Jill decided to try and relocate the shop. “After a lengthy and fraught struggle, and many meetings at the mairie, we secured these premises at 7 rue Grande. Debbie and I formed a business partnership and created a new company. With the change of location, we decided to change the name and diversify the range of items we stock to appeal to an even wider clientele.”

The pair was able to raise money via online donations, which helped fund some of the changes they had to make to the new shop. “Debbie and myself say a huge thank you to our loyal customers and friends. It has been an incredible first year, helped enormously by our regulars, new customers who never knew there was an English bookshop here before and the return of tourists to the village.”

Niche Books Valbonne sells a wide range of books in English, bilingual books, local school titles, greetings cards, a small range of stationery items, including crayons and colouring books, French books linked to the region and the possibility to order books not in stock!

Brexit has obviously led to many changes for the British community, some of whom have had to permanently return to the UK. “The community of English-speaking residents remains largely unchanged. The growth of English classes in local schools brought a new clientele to the shop – parents wanting to see their children read much more in English.”

Jill and Debbie are continuing to help promote local authors and artists. A book signing with Lewis Hinton took place recently, for his novel The Face Stone, a Jack Sangster mystery. The shop also stocks cards by Cathie Van der Stel & Marina Kulik, and beautiful hand worked prints by photographer Jon Kershaw.

Illustrator Tiphanie Beeke will be at the shop on Saturday, September 24, at 3pm to read stories of Fletcher, an inquisitive little fox, and children can colour in their own Fletcher pictures.

Reflecting on the almost 30 years she has lived near Valbonne, Jill says that while the neighbouring Sophia Antipolis tech park has grown “exponentially”, the old village has maintained its natural charm. “There are still many villagers who have grown up, lived and worked here all their lives. Local festivals continue in time-honoured tradition mostly around Place des Arcades, the popular square at the heart of the village where there is a variety of restaurants and cafés to choose from.”

Of course, with a newly purchased book in hand – maybe the latest Thursday Murder Club story by Richard Osman.

Jill’s Top Sellers in Valbonne

For those who like bread straight from the oven, Jill suggests stopping by Le fournil d’Eugène, next to the bookshop, around 11am for a Valbonnais. Her other tips include “amazing cheeses” from 365 Fromages (rue Eugène Giraud), indulgent chocolates from a Meilleur Ouvrier de France at Chocolaterie Christian Camprini (rue de la République) or a glass of  ‘proper’ beer at the Irish bar Roots on rue de la Fontaine.

The Good Life

Mental health is not a topic historically associated with Monaco. Gavin Sharpe of Riviera Wellbeing seems determined to change that. His latest initiative, The Good Life, is an all-day event at the Monte Carlo Bay Hotel on October 15th which he hopes will move the dial.

“Covid was a game changer for all of us,” says Gavin. “Overnight, mental health went from being a taboo subject to a daily conversation. Rich or poor, we were all faced with similar existential questions about our careers, relationships and lives.”

As a psychotherapist and psychosexual therapist, Gavin has teamed up with an international relationship and wellbeing coach Dufflyn Lammers, originally from California, now based in France. The pair are collaborating with Riviera Radio and the aim is to broadcast part of the day live on air to reach as large an audience as possible.

Does he think Monaco is ready to talk about mental health? “Actually, I find mental health a stigmatised, less helpful phrase these days. I am not really a fan of happiness either as a benchmark tool for how to measure our lives. Happiness is fleeting and mostly circumstantial. I cannot feel happy all the time. I need to choose how to meet my pain.”

Gavin, who co-hosts “Wellbeing Window” with Sarah Lycett on Riviera Radio the first Wednesday of every month, favours the term “wellbeing” which is something we can actively do on a daily basis. He cites the quality of our relationships, meaningful careers, financial health, good body health, as well as connection to a higher purpose, as being some of the crucial components that need to be aligned for us to be “well”.

The Monaco resident believes two recent events have changed us forever. Covid and the war in Ukraine. “We cannot unsee what we have seen. We are at an existential crossroads, individually and collectively.” This is why it is the right time to launch The Good Life for which he is donating ticket sales to Child CARE Monaco.

“We are re-defining wellness. People who were stressed and/or obese were dying in front of us during the pandemic, not to mention those we lost with no pre-existing conditions. Wellness is no longer just a yoga class once a week but a question of survival and a desire to prepare ourselves for the future.”

He adds, “Typically, we focus on one or two wellbeing components. There is no point me having the best job in the world but being lonely and obese. That isn’t wellness.”

Gavin fears we have become “dopamine zombies”, seeking out instant pleasure at the expense of avoiding pain and that society’s over-consumption is unstainable, if we want to be well. This is what he believes leads to addiction.

“I think the war in Ukraine was also a tipping point for many. It seemed to come from nowhere and right off the back of the pandemic. More people probably came to therapy in the weeks after Putin invaded Ukraine than during the first half of the pandemic.”

As for The Good Life, Gavin says he was amazed at the enthusiasm from their corporate sponsors: Savills, Blevins Franks, Metabolic Balance and Clinic Les Alpes. “Not one company asked ‘What’s in it for me?’All they have asked is ‘What can we do to help?’”

Perhaps this explains why Gavin feels the time is right to discuss mental health, I mean wellbeing! As to whether Monaco is ready, Gavin remains optimistic:

“Monaco has led the way in so many areas, like with the health of the planet’s environment. I am thinking now about your recent coverage of Kate Powers who I had the privilege of getting to know briefly. Look at her legacy in and around the community. Yes, I think we are approaching readiness. As they say, if not now, then when? Carl Jung stated ‘Life is a short pause between two great mysteries’. In other words, we don’t have long so let’s get started!”

The Good Life takes place Saturday, October 15th, from 10 am to 4 pm, at Monte Carlo Bay. Tickets (€60 day pass includes lunch) can be purchased online or by calling +33 (0)6 40 61 99 82.

Father Peter Jackson

I was shocked when I heard that Father Peter Jackson, 69, had died on August 30.  Having suffered a pulmonary embolism, he passed away a few days later in hospital surrounded by family and friends. In the words of many, he genuinely was “one of the kindest people I had ever met.” A eucharist at Holy Trinity Nice will take place at 11 am on Wednesday, October 12 will be followed by the committal of ashes in the church yard. There will be a private cremation in advance.

Father Peter came to Holy Trinity Nice in October 2014. During my years as Editor-in-Chief of the Riviera Reporter magazine, I had the privilege to sit down with him several times after he first arrived, which happened to be mere months before the Charlie Hebdo massacre. Uncannily, he was also in Washington as 9/11 unfolded, driving across the bridge as the Pentagon was hit. The story below is based on two interviews, from March 2015 and November 2015, when he reflected on the Paris attacks and the fundamental human question about how could God allow suffering.

It was All Saint’s Day 1945 when Peter Jackson’s parents met on an air force station in Hartlebury, Worcestershire. They married two years later and moved to Wales where Peter was born in 1953.

“I attended a small private school from the age of 13 to nearly 18, and I stayed on to do an extra study for Oxford entrance. I worked for the newspaper – not as a journalist but folding and delivering papers to make some money so I could travel to the South of France. In fact, I spent my 18th birthday closed to Toulon.”

Peter read theology at St Peter’s College Oxford for three years before starting to study Law but went back to Oxford and got a teaching qualification. From there, he went on to Theological College at St Stephen’s House in Oxford and trained to be ordained. 

“When I was in my prep school of 150 boys, the headmaster commented to my mother ‘Brother Peter’, so even though I wasn’t particularly pious, there must have been something religious about my attitudes. And the other thing I do remember is my scripture lessons. Our teacher was quite obsessed with spiritualist things and these were some of the liveliest lessons. My rival in this tiny school, Nick Rowley, eventually went to Cambridge and was a brilliant musician who played for the Two Ronnies. He and I were absolutely engaged in thinking about religion and philosophy, the big issues that concern us as we are growing up.”

After confirmation, Peter found going to chapel significant and admired his “very abled” Chaplain, and the idea that this is what he would do crossed his mind. “But I also experienced the common teenage reaction to all the suffering in the world, we’re talking about the late Sixties and Vietnam. I wasn’t becoming an atheist but I now realise the fundamental human question about how could God allow such suffering is actually growing up in terms of spirituality, a fairly normal adolescence for a thoughtful person. At the time you just feel quite angry. I didn’t stop going to church but I felt very conflicted, which fell into a time when I was fascinated by Bertrand Russell; I read all three volumes of his biography and read transcripts of his debates on religion in the early Fifties, which now you could probably watch on YouTube. It all makes you wonder whether God exists, and if he does, why does so much appalling suffering go unrectified?”

He added, “The institution on the whole didn’t give me greatest confidence. I resisted being ordained but I saw that I was resisting, and that wasn’t a good thing. I wasn’t sure. It was such a relief, though, and I felt like I had arrived at the right place.”

Father Peter said the question of suffering was one he was often asked. “If there’s a sudden death or a young person is afflicted with some awful illness, or, as in my last parish, the youngest son of our treasurer’s wife was murdered in his twenties in a random attack around the corner from where I lived. It’s not that they stopped believing, but they didn’t. Faith and my connection with them pastorally didn’t waiver, but it left them in a very bleak place. I read that Mother Theresa in the last few years of her life found a complete emptiness when she prayed. I made this commitment and I will hold onto this even though they get nothing back in terms of feeling.”

He believed it was possible to “hang in there” even though one’s intuition or affective side is desolate. Much like people felt after the Charlie Hebdo attack in Paris, where two armed terrorists killed 12 people and injured 11 others in the office of the weekly satirical newspaper.

“I didn’t preach about Charlie Hebdo. You have to be very careful about preaching about these subjects, you can characterize it as the conflict between two faiths, or two brothers who lived marginalised lives, and it doesn’t work. It’s essentially many different interpretations, and I don’t think in public, giving an opinion is helpful. Frankly, we don’t know.”

Father Peter was in Washington on 9/11. “I was driving across the bridge as the Pentagon was hit. I’d oddly been right in the mix so to speak. We cannot understand how shocked Americans were about being attacked in their home country and we can get lost in a fog of complexity. What I did in the very thoughtful and highly educated episcopal parish in Washington was a whole series about the ethics of war. I found those who were pastorally engaged, they didn’t want a knee-jerk reaction but to consider the wider context of what this was all about.

“One of the consequences of the First World War was a change in how people thought about the dead. They wouldn’t have a very adequate response to death and grief, but you have the ritual of the unknown soldier and poppies, two minutes silence and you suddenly get changed emphasis in Anglicanism, get prayers for the dead.

“In the Second World War, people, not everyone, went to church. The intensity of the experience drew people to the church for a secular memorial service. There isn’t religious behaviour in our society, but  institutions or religion and their representatives connect with the raw emoting and questioning of the moment.

“By inclination, evocative sacramental religion gives people more of a resource to cope. People can be themselves and have their own relationship with God.”

A year after his arrival as Chaplain at the historic Holy Trinity Anglican Church in Nice, as well as of St Hugh Vence, Father Peter said in 2015, “I have served in a variety of parishes and schools, including twelve years at Harrow School, but I have never received such a warm and practical welcome as here.

“We have had so much help in settling into the presbytery – the 1890s priest’s house next to the church – getting to know the community and becoming accustomed to life in France. The assistance offered was invaluable as Holy Trinity is quite different from my previous parish in London. The congregation there consistently drew from only the immediate area, while the Nice one is constantly changing. There is a loyal core of people who have made their permanent home here but there is also a constant flow of visitors from all over the Anglophone world. In recent months, we have welcomed students from the Netherlands, Australia and the US, a Canadian Air Force chaplain, as well as visitors from the UK and North America. There are also those who come for a few months at a time: some from Canada wintering on the Riviera, as the British did in the nineteenth century, and others simply spending time in apartments that they own in Nice.

“There is also a significant American presence, which dates back to the time 40 years ago when the American Anglican congregation of the Episcopal Church of the Holy Spirit joined Holy Trinity, having sold their church in Nice to the French Protestants. This explains why Holy Trinity, a chaplaincy within the Church of England Diocese in Europe, is also listed as an associated parish by the Episcopal Church. Attendance, as well the composition of the congregation, varies considerably.

“We had almost 300 in church for the Easter Day service but fewer than half that number at Christmas, reflecting both the tendency of many permanent Nice residents to visit family at Christmas and the popularity of the Riviera as a holiday destination at Easter. When I describe the Holy Trinity congregation to visiting friends, I say that they are more like a cathedral congregation than a parish one. The factors that draw people to us are similar: a desire to participate in worship in English, and worship, that is accessible and mainstream.

“Also, I cannot assume that everyone is Anglican or that everyone is equally devout: some may be seeking something spiritual without yet having strong commitment. Moreover, the social time after services, when many linger to chat over a glass of wine or a cup of coffee, is for some an indispensable complement to the worship – English speakers in a foreign land, they are keen to find an English-speaking community. But this has to be balanced by a recognition that some are also attracted by the fact that you can also slip in and out of Holy Trinity without the obligation to become more involved.

“I am very fortunate. I have had a variety in my life of working with interesting communities and met an extraordinary range of people and become involved profoundly in the lives of others. And that’s a privilege that doesn’t happen to a lot of people. I’m grateful that I have a family life, which was not something I expected. And fascinated to have arrived in such an extraordinary place and community and house, and at a point when one might expect to be winding down and retiring, I find myself with the stimulus of something entirely new and rewarding.”

Father Peter is survived by his husband Joseph Voelker and their children Eliot and Anneli.

Rhonda Hudson, President Kate Powers Foundation

Rhonda Hudson and Kate Powers.

There are people who fantasise about living in Monaco. For Rhonda Hudson, a physical dream came to her one night while attending chiropractic school in Atlanta Georgia. “The dream was strong and vivid. I was walking down an old small cobblestone road holding hands with two little girls and when I looked up, I saw a sign that read Niçoise Socca. As I had never visited Europe, it took me a few months to figure out what this meant. As soon as I did, I quit school and flew to Nice. Two suitcases, my dog and me,” recalls Rhonda, founder of the well-being centre of alignment, Bodyflow.mc.

About ten months after arriving in the Alpes-Maritimes in 2000, the native of California visited Monaco. “I gave myself the time to find out who I was, letting go of old belief systems, family stuff and data. I did a lot of deprogramming and went deeper inside.”

Rhonda says she was searching for a deeper meaning to life. “I began questioning everything. There had to more to this world and humanity then suffering and this longing to have more, be more, do more, which seemed like a never-ending road down the rabbit hole. Somewhere in all of this must be a deeper inner-peace where we find joy, happiness and bliss even in the challenging times.”

Shortly after coming to Monaco she met Kate Powers. “Kate and I shared a deep love of helping others, both in our own ways, and definitely sharing our experiences together so we could grow.”

Rhonda shares that her friendship with Kate was not instantaneous. “It took us a few years to build a deep connection from just being acquaintances at various events of interest. We first met through some well-being events around Monaco, yoga classes, the Fourth of July and Halloween at Stars’n’Bars. We built our deep friendship walking the No Finish Line sometime in 2002 or 2003. Over those several days of walking together it was as though we had been friends our entire lives, something clicked, and from that point forward we shared almost everything.”

After that, Rhonda and Kate planned wellness events together and went on many retreats, from detox retreats around the region to liver cleanses in Germany. The last one was in Malta with one of their favourite neuroscientists, Dr Joe Dispenza. “We planned how we could make a difference for Monaco and the environment, how we could have an impact on the community and how we could heal ourselves through our own personal struggles.”

The Monaco resident admits that while living in California she was not as focused on a healthy lifestyle. “My moto is balance. I feel extremely blessed that I have been around and influenced by some of the top leaders in the well-being industry worldwide.”

Bodyflow.mc offers people the opportunity to experience bodywork, breath work, kundalini yoga (chanting, singing, breathing exercises), meditation, sound therapy and transformational coaching. “Sometimes in life, we feel stuck, depressed and helpless. We experience the death of loved ones, divorce, financial struggles, anxiety, stress, being burnt out or overwhelmed. Through a variety of tools people can experience alternative ways for recovery, for healing, to create an experience of well-being from the inside. And developing these daily tools means they can use overcome their issues and feel well, healthy, joyful and strong mentally, physically and emotionally,” she explains.

Rhonda works with teenagers and adults using a variety of different techniques. She says a life balance, breathing and power practices are the three steps people can take to improve their wellness levels.

“Make sure you have balance between work, family, socialising, sleep and exercising. Try alternate nostril breathing helps reduce stress and settle the mind. And meditation, sound therapy and yoga allow you to master your thoughts and transform your life.”

Painting by Dave Van Dorst. Photo: Alicia Sedgwick

With the one-year anniversary of Kate’s death approaching on August 30th, many of us still struggle with the loss. For her closest friend Rhonda, it remains especially raw.

“It is hard to believe it is the one-year anniversary of her passing. I have tears in my eyes at this moment as I miss her, our friendship, her smiling face, our numerous adventures and our deep chats over a glass of wine on how we could make a difference—one of her favourite sayings and a tag line on her emails.”

It is largely thanks to Rhonda and Kate’s family that the Kate Powers Foundation was officially formed in June. “I did get Kate’s permission after much deliberation. I am not sure how many people knew that Kate had a shy side to her. She was not a huge fan of public speaking even though she was great at it and when we first started discussing a foundation in her name she wasn’t convinced.

“After several weeks of discussions, I managed to help her see how much she had done for the community and the Principality, and how it was important that we kept her passions, dreams and desires moving forward. She then shared with me all the things she would love to see followed through and created through the Foundation. I remember her saying, ‘Are you sure we have to call it the Kate Powers Foundation?’ We both smiled and then laughed.”

The slogan for the Kate Powers Foundation (KPF) is “Together we shine Bright”. Rhonda reveals, “One of Kate’s deepest desires was to pull people together in the community. When anyone had a problem or needed help, they would walk through the doors of Stars’n’Bars looking for Kate. Parents would tell their kids, ‘If you get into trouble and can’t reach me, go to Kate.’ When someone had an idea for an event or project, they would go to Kate. If a person was in emotional pain, where did they go? Kate. She listened, she offered positive words and hugs, and she shared a moment with people that let them know everything would be okay, she was there to help. To Kate, everyone was special. To everyone, Kate as a beacon of light.”

The Foundation is in its early stages and, as president, Rhonda and the association’s board are pulling together all Kate’s ideas they would like to follow through with over the next few years that both unite the community and follow her lead of giving back. For example, linking the Eco Angels – the group Kate put together to pick up trash after the Grand Prix, The Jumping and the Yacht Show – with companies who are aligned with the Foundation’s efforts so together they can make a difference

“Kate loved the sea and wanted to make sure we kept all the trash left over from these events out of the water, so we could help heal the environment. She also had a big passion for children, so we are excited to work with and be inspired by kids and young adults of Monaco. Every project we participate in will give back to the community in various ways – education, scholarships, well-being, personal growth and sustainable means – giving everyone an opportunity to work together and give back.”

At the moment, the KPF website is under construction. Individuals and companies will soon be able to donate online globally or for specific projects, share ideas, sign up for events, participate as volunteers or partner with the Foundation, as well as receive a monthly newsletter. Donations can be made by cheque or wire transfer to the Kate Powers Foundation c/o BodyFlow, Palais de la Scala, 1 Henri Dunant, Monaco 98000.

Shane Heminway., Peter Thomas, Didier Rubiolo, Annette Anderson and Mike Powers onJuly 16, 2022.
Photo: Alicia Sedgwick

On July 16th, the Foundation held a “super simple get together” in honour of Kate’s birthday at Stars’n’Bars. “We had a wonderful turnout with so many volunteers donating their time and goods, making this very first event something special for everyone that was able to attend. Kate touched the lives of so many people, I believe the community will join together to see her legacy live on. ‘Do what you love, love what you do and make a difference’ as she always said.”

As a tribute to mark August 30th, Rhonda graciously agreed to share a few of her favourite Kate stories. “I have so many, however, here is one that comes to mind. Every week, we would sit at the bar close to the kitchen of the fusion restaurant and discuss the various ways we could stop Kate’s mom Kelly from feeding popcorn to the pigeons at the front of Stars’n’Bars, which seemed to annoy customers. We came up with numerous plans to distract Kelly but I am not sure any of them worked!

“Another time we flew to London to go to a seminar ‘The Work’  by Byron Katie to find a deeper meaning to life and question what you believe. We spent two days in the seminar and were rushing to the airport late Sunday afternoon. It started to snow on the M25 highway, which meant we ended up in a huge traffic jam with nothing moving. So we built a snowman to pass the time. Kate always looked at making the best of the situations we found ourselves in … and there were many.”

On a more intimate note, Rhonda opens up: “The year leading to Kate’s passing, and I had to sit with this for a while to put it into words, was special. I know that may sound strange but let me share why … we laughed, we cried, we worked on so many things personally for healing, we discussed all the things we did together, everything she was feeling during this time, how much she loved what she did, how many special people she had relationships with and how they influenced her life in such a positive way.

“Overall, Kate felt enriched by all of her experiences, how much she loved her family and friends and staff at Stars. And lastly, she said how she loved the community in Monaco and this was her home.”