Domestic Violence Support Group

International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women on November 25th has been observed since 1981 to honour the Mirabal sisters, three political activists from the Dominican Republic who were murdered in 1960. But it wasn’t an official designated day until 2000, when the United Nations called on governments, international organisations and NGOs to collectively raise public awareness every year on that date.

Eight years later, the UN launched its UNiTE campaign, 16 days of activism against gender-based violence starting on International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women and running to International Human Rights Day on December 10th.


0800 91 90 10 Victims of Violence Monaco
3919 Violences Femmes Info France

Additional numbers listed at end of article.

According to femicide statistics from UN Women, in 2021 some 45,000 women or girls were killed by someone in their own family – that’s an average of more than five people every hour. In France that same year, the government reported 122 women were killed by their partner or ex-partner and 35% of them were victims of previous violence by their partner. In the UK, the Femicide Census’ most recent data estimates that a woman is killed by a man every three days – and 62% of them by a current or former partner.

Paris-based therapist Jill Bourdais became involved in helping victims of domestic violence after meeting fellow American Paula Lucas in 2010. She recalls, “Paula had been cruelly abused by her Palestinian – yes, alas – husband while living in the UAE with him. She had escaped and come to Paris to talk about her non-profit then called American Overseas Domestic Violence Crisis Center, which is now Pathways to Safety.”

As Paula was looking for people to help her spread the word, Jill at once volunteered, and organised a forum on the subject in Paris. Jill created a Domestic Violence Support Group soon after, which she hosted and led – “at first in a little space I own in our building but with Covid, switched to Zoom, which means women from all over France now join.”

Jill grew up in Boston and after college worked in journalism for several years before changing to psychology in 1977, doing a Master’s in New York and a DESS (Diplôme d’Études Supérieures Spécialisées) in Paris in 1981. “In 1968 I’d married a Frenchman I met in New York, which led to my moving to Paris. I have been working as a therapist ever since and have had lots of experience running groups and giving workshops.

For Jill, pinpointing the signs of domestic violence is tough. “As most women’s self-confidence is beaten down by abusers, this leads to a strong sense of shame. That means that they won’t share what they are enduring as they’ve been hearing for months or years that all is their fault,” she explains.

“Repetitive physical illness can signal abuse, as can depression or little remarks about the partner controlling all decision-making in the family, as control is an essential need of the abuser. If a friend or family member senses a problem, it’s probably best to start with unobtrusive questioning about the woman’s well-being, pushing the point little by little. Avoid remarks implying that all will be okay soon, or that some small fix on her part will make everything better.” Jill advises family and friends to read up on the web the signs of abuse which are often covert, in case your friend reveals some of them, not realising that she is, in fact, being abused.

“I think people often think that abuse means physical harm done to a victim. In fact, that is not always in the mix, whereas psychological, emotional and/or financial abuse are always present. Many, many people assume that an abuse victim can ‘just leave’ without factoring in the financial costs of that, the factors regarding uprooting children, the lack of family support in France, the ignorance of administrative procedures, poor command of the language, the lack of access to money, poor or no job prospects, and inability to return home if they have children!”

The Expat Web
Addressing the complexities of expat women, Jill says, “I cannot prove this, but my belief is that expat women who do not master French are at a considerable disadvantage with the police and with the justice system here. The procedures are long and arduous. If you manage to press charges, you never know if your report will be passed along to the prosecutor or just put in a file drawer, and you can wait for months before any action is taken. If you need a translator, he or she has to be court-approved, and can be good or incompetent. You are left out of any banter among those present.” 

Jill strongly advises finding a lawyer who speaks English and has experience with domestic violence “or you will be badly represented”. She adds that even if you find the best lawyer, all outcomes depend on the judge you get, and therein lie many sad stories of judges who clearly take the side of the French abuser.

“The biggest trap is that expats who have children VERY rarely get to return with them to their home country, so they are condemned to stay in France until the child is 18. Many fathers who have never even changed a diaper sue for full custody to take revenge on their partners, and though full custody in either direction is rare, even fathers who abuse their children often obtain 50-50 shared custody.”

Women are invited to join Jill’s bi-monthly Domestic Violence Support Group which is run by volunteers. “It is for anglophones – from any country – as there are plenty of helpful associations for French speakers. We meet twice monthly for 2 hours, and attendees take turns explaining their situations. Others are invited to chime in when they have information or suggestions or questions. Usually between 3 and 7 people attend each time – not always the same women, though there are several ‘faithfuls’ who are important allies in the process.

“I do not charge for anything I do for victims, such as accompanying them to the police or to court hearings, writing attestations for court procedures, finding lawyers or useful associations in France which might help them, finding a therapist – I don’t generally act as a therapist for the women who attend my group – or just being there when they need to talk.”

On an administrative note, Jill is currently looking for a volunteer to take over the Domestic Violence Help Paris Support Group Facebook page, a private group which was created in 2020 by a volunteer who has since left. Anyone interested should email:

Article first published on November 24, 2023. Feature photo: Flickr Marco Verch.

0800 91 90 10 Victims of Violence Monaco
3919 Violences Femmes Info France

Victims of Offences Help Association (AVIP)
377 93 25 00 07 Monaco in English

SOS Help – Support in English in France
01 46 21 46 46

Violences Femmes Info

Feminist Collective Against Rape, English help available on request
Collectif féministe contre le viol (CFCV)
0 800 05 95 95

Listen Violence Against Disabled Women
Écoute Violences Femmes Handicapées (EVFH)
01 40 47 06 06

Federation 3977 Against Mistreatment of Seniors
Fédération 3977 contre les maltraitances

National Federation of Associations and Support Centres for Perpetrators of Domestic and Family Violence
Fédération Nationale des Associations et des Centres de prise en Charge d’Auteurs de Violences conjugales & Familiales (FNACAV)
08 019 019 11

National Suicide Prevention France

France Victimes National Victim Assistance Number

National GAMS Federation – Group for the Abolition of Female Sexual Mutilation (excision), Forced Marriage and other traditional practices harmful to the health of women and children
La Fédération Nationale GAMS –Groupe pour l’Abolition des Mutilations Sexuelles Féminines (excision) des Mariages Forcés et autres pratiques traditionnelles néfastes à la santé des femmes et des enfants)
01 43 48 10 87

It’s A Dog’s Life Monaco

Compassion for canines is a part of Jessica Fry’s genetic code. “My parents rescued their first dog together on their honeymoon in Bali in the Seventies and flew her back to the UK where she became my Protector-in-Chief when I was born,” says Jessica.

The freelance business developer grew up in the countryside “surrounded by old or damaged or ugly dogs. My parents would adopt the ones no one wanted and they would live out their days with us in a pack of ten or so at a time.”

Little wonder then that Jessica would not think twice in risking her own life to protect her four-legged friends. In February 2017, the Monaco resident needed a change. Cornwall-born Jessica had been working for over a decade in hospitality and events for Amber Lounge, Sonia Irvine’s Formula One VIP party. “It was sort of in the blood. In the Sixties and Seventies, my father had been a racing driver alongside Jack Brabham, Stirling Moss and Jackie Stewart. And his family before him had kept a house in Cap Ferrat, and a boat in Monaco, so spending time in and around the Principality was very much a family thing.”

Then her first rescue dog, Squeaky, died. She decided to head to Tortola in the British Virgin Islands to work with her old friend Chris Smith of Coldwell Banker in their rental department. She was tasked with finding homes for the turnover of office staff from the offshore services sector.

Looking back, the dog lover recalls, “This move represented a whole new life for me. Chris collected me from the airport and the first thing we did, before I even saw my new house in Cane Garden Bay, was visit Brutus, a guard dog that needed to have an eye kept on him. The second thing I did was pop down to the Humane Society Rescue Shelter and see what they needed.”

Jessica knew all too well the animal shelter. During a previous stint in Tortola in 2004 Squeaky had eaten poisoned meat and so when she walked in again thirteen years later, the manager recognised her. He was holding a tiny Squeaky lookalike puppy who had just been found in a trash bag on the road to the incinerator. “Obviously, Strawberry came home with me and we unpacked our new life together.”

Strawberry and Jessica went about their business until early September. “We watched a tropical storm building in the Atlantic. These are a thing in the islands, but usually they veer northwards while still far out at sea and all that happens is a bit of rain. Hurricane Irma, however, refused to budge, she just got bigger and bigger. At work we made the usual hurricane preparations – boarding up the fabulous villas, clearing outside spaces, bulk buying water … and then people started to leave. The international trusts and banks sent chartered planes down from the US mandatorily evacuating their staff and families.”

With her pilot neighbour, they observed their little beach shacks and looked at the radar images. “The eye of this monster storm was already much bigger than our tiny island, and it was still on the path for a direct hit. Not really knowing what to expect, but knowing it wasn’t going to be good, and that we didn’t have much time, we piled Strawberry and her dog Moby plus whatever else we could fit into the cars and zoomed off to a friend’s holiday villa up the mountain which had a basement.” Meanwhile phones were pinging with hurricane updates, evacuation warnings and urgent messages from friends trying to leave.

Curfew was announced as they arrived at the villa in a blizzard of falling leaves and tropical flowers. Island power was deliberately cut as trees started bending sideways. “Then I remembered Brutus, knew his people would have left and I jumped back in the car. Probably one of the more stupid and best things I have ever done in my life. I bombed down dark deserted country lanes with small trees starting to snap around me, and there he was alone at the top of the drive, absolutely thrilled someone had come for him. I threw him in – all 56 kilos of panicky Ridgeback – and bombed back down the lanes with trees falling, threw him in the house and promptly forgot about him.”

On September 6th, the “most powerful hurricane on record” with 250 km/h winds struck the Caribbean Island chain. Irma would have been Category 7 had military equipment not been smashed while recording windspeed.

The largest of the British Virgin Islands was not spared. “It sat on us for 74 hours and obliterated the island,” Jessica describes. “While we were hiding in the basement, 28 people died. Not one tree remained and 90% of buildings simply disappeared. Tornadoes had spiralled off the main walls of the storm and carved trails through the hills. Dead things – human and animal – lay where they had been thrown, along with vehicles, shipping containers, boats. It was carnage.”

Jessica and her pilot friend helped rescue humans from the debris and hiked bodies to the hospital. Animals started appearing. She remembered the pleading messages from friends as they’d been evacuated:

“Jess, please, please find Susie. They wouldn’t let her on the plane so I let her out of the car at the airport, please find her!”

“Jess, I left Noodle at the house with a bag of dog food. Could you please check he’s ok if you get a chance?”

She started hiking all over the island to where homes had once been. One by one, she found the dogs and bought them back to the basement. By the time the Humane Society Disaster Relief crew arrived a few weeks later, Jess had about 30 dogs.

“The crew had bought tents and planned to camp on the beach. But as the island is tectonic, the only place for cemeteries was along sea level which the storm surge had excavated. The crew came back to our basement and we set up the animal rescue control centre. I knew roughly where the dogs might be and they knew how to get them out and match them back with their owners or send them to no kill adoption shelters in the States.”

As soon as the Royal Marines cleared the airport “enough to land”, her boss got his US-based million-dollar clients to send their private jets down with emergency medical supplies and leave with animals. As Jessica remembers, “One stunning cream leather upholstered Falcon jet arrived full of hay bales for the surviving race horses.”

Within the year, Jessica returned to the Principality with her beloved Strawberry and Brutus. The self-described “absolute nut for helping to rescue dogs” now has four rescues at home. “I suppose it’s fair to say that most of us who live here in Monaco are fairly fortunate humans, and in this situation, I think it’s natural to want to give back. Dog lovers are wonderful people usually obsessed with their animals and it’s a relatively easy thing to arrange a channel for the good that they want to do.”

Which is where her charity book It’s A Dog’s Life Monaco comes in. “All dogs are unique, as are their humans. Monaco is also unique. Join these together and you have something quite fascinating. There are highly pampered handbag pooches and also real canine rags to riches stories here. I’ve met and photographed two abused and abandoned rescue dogs in the past week who only ever fly first class these days.”

It’s A Dog’s Life Monaco will be a high-end hardback coffee table book designed to support the Society of the Protection of Animals (SPA Monaco) and its new president Princess Charlene, and its launch will coincide with the opening of the new SPA animal shelter in Peille in spring 2024. “Princess Antoinette created the original SPA in Eze over forty years ago and now Princess Charlene and Prince Albert are teaching the new generation, their 8-year-old twins Jacques and Gabriella, what it is to love and rescue animals,” says Jessica.

The opening of the book will be dedicated to the Princely family’s long love of dogs, from Prince Albert I with his hunting dog on his shoulders to Grace Kelly stepping off the boat with her poodle under her arm to marry Prince Rainier. (Prince Rainier’s faithful dog followed his funeral cortege as Mourner-in-Chief.) The last page will be a collage of portraits of dogs available for adoption at the SPA with a QR code of most recent pooches looking for a home.

The book’s midsection will be made up of hundreds of photos of people and their dogs going about their daily business in Monaco. “Loving dogs transcends social barriers, and it’s a happy thing to be able to show this in action. There’s a homeless man who devotes everything he has to his beautifully looked after dog, ‘ordinary people’ like you and me, famous people, millionaires, young and old, recognised and not.”

Jessica has been coordinating photoshoots non-stop with photographers Julie Franch Guerra and her father, Charles. Charles used to work with Helmut Newton before becoming one of the official palace photographers, which he did for 20 odd years until he retired. “Julie has inherited his talent and combines that with a dynamism that comes from a career of sports and animal photography. The pair of them are absolutely brilliant,” praises Jessica.

And she has already secured several VIP dog-friendly sponsors, including Sir Stelios, the founder of easyPet, which safely drives animals between Monaco, France and the UK. “Stelios has a rescue dog himself and is a big part of making this project possible with his kind support and belief in what we’re doing. I can honestly say easyPet is a genius idea and a huge help to those of us with dogs too big to go under the seat in front.”

The jet chartering company LunaJets, Monaco’s GALE FORCE Computing and JV Pastor Groupe’s Maya Collection are also onboard to help raise awareness for SPA Monaco.

Addressing any confusion between It’s A Dog’s Life Monaco and the Dogs of Monaco, Jessica simply says, “The publisher asked me if I would help to create a book called Les Chiens de Monaco but, sadly, it turned out that we had very different values so it wasn’t to be.”

She wants to make clear: “It’s A Dog’s Life Monaco is a Made-in-Monaco non-for-profit project with all sales proceeds to be donated to the charity shelter for animals.

“And by participating in a photoshoot you are already benefitting the SPA by making this book possible. And for that I thank you.”

You can message Jessica Fry via the It’s A Dog’s Life Monaco website or its_a_dogs_life_monaco on Instagram.

Photos courtesy of Jessica Fry. Feature photo by Charles Franch Guerra.

Article first published October 27, 2023.

Beth Blatt

By her own admission, Beth Blatt has “a chequered past”. After college at Dartmouth, the American had a promising career in advertising but quit after three years to become an actress in musicals. She toured the US and the world until a 5-week stay in Tokyo turned into three years when she landed a regular TV and radio gig. “It was great being an expat there because I was allowed to do all sorts of work I had no experience doing,” says Beth. “I became the pop-rock music critic for the Japan Times, had a role in a Godzilla movie – and started writing lyrics with the composer of the musical I’d done.”

After Japan, and with a six month-detour in Hong Kong (where she met Red Pear Theatre founder Hilary King), Beth moved back to New York City with the decision she preferred writing to performing. She was accepted in the prestigious (and free of charge) BMI Musical Theatre Writing Workshop where icons such as Maury Yeston (Nine, Titanic) became mentors. “I worked hard and my work was recognised, developed and produced. Then one day I realised musicals are so US-centric and that ‘The World’ was missing in my work. I wanted a purpose beyond that. And so I created my music-for change-business, Hope Sings –Singing Stories of Change to Change the Stories of Lives.”

Beth believes the power of music can change the world. “Not an original belief, I know. But my vision was to combine the specifics-rich stories favoured by musicals with music from all over the world to reach casual listeners in a deeper, more transformational way.” She started by commissioning Latina singer-songwriters to create songs inspired by success stories of women whose lives had been uplifted through microloans.

Then one afternoon on a playground in NYC, Beth heard a mom who worked at the United Nations talking about the formation of UN Women. “And it just popped out of me: ‘They need a theme song.’ The mom introduced her the UN’s head of communications, who was “rather taken aback by my idea, but didn’t say no” and, through Hilary King, she was able to reach out to composer Graham Lyle (What’s Love Got To Do With It). With Somalian songwriter Clay, they created “One Woman,” which became the finale for the UN Women launch at the gorgeously-gilded UN General Assembly. “When thousands of staid diplomats and bureaucrats stood and sang along – well, it’s one of those moments you treasure forever.”

The next thing that popped out of her mouth: “Now you have to record it.” Beth spent the next two years working every connection she had – cold-calling managers and Googling to assemble a cast of some 25 internationally-acclaimed artists, including Brazilian Bebel Gilberto; Indian Anoushka Shankar; and Angelique Kidjo from Benin. On International Women’s Day, March 8, 2013, the recording was released and Secretary General Ban-Ki Moon (below with Beth) ended his speech by quoting Beth’s lyric: “Shine, Shine, Shine – We shall shine.” This gifted her another treasured moment.

Every year since, groups perform the song on International Women’s Day at the UN and beyond. “If you are reading this and have a sudden urge to sing the song here in the South of France, please drop me a note. I’ll share the score, lyrics – even a karaoke backing track.”

Beth is a long way from New York and the UN General Assembly. So how did she end up here? “We moved to Paris from New York in July 2022 when my husband’s work transferred him over. We were both itching to come – he is French, an Antibois, and I was a French-German language major in college. We’d spent little bits of time in France over the years, but nothing substantial.”

The minute Beth landed in the City of Light she hit the museums, the historic monuments, the churches, and immediately discovered amazing women she’d never heard of. “I did what I always do. I started ‘writing’ them.” Her Forgotten Women of France series includes Clotilde, first queen of France; Christine de Pisan, first female professional writer in Europe; and Marie-Thérèse, the daughter of Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette – who survived the Terror and three years in prison.

Marie-Thérèse’s story was the richest and Beth turned the monologues into a play. “I went on a tour of the Chapelle Expiatoire, the Paris memorial to her parents that she had helped build. I’ve always wanted to create site-specific theatre, which takes place in a cool space relevant to a character’s life. I asked the guide there if they’d like to attract more Anglophone visitors. Turns out they did. Six weeks later, I brought a group of women there for a combination visite dramatique and one-woman-show. They loved it – so I’m now figuring out what to do with it next.”

For the past few weeks, Beth has had the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women on her radar. She is committed to doing a presentation of new material about women who stand up for themselves and others. “Since I’m spending time in Paris and Antibes, I decided to do something in both places on November 25.”

In Paris, she discovered Winnaretta Singer, Princesse de Polignac, who built the first shelter for battered women in Paris, and was a patron of the arts. On the Coast, two women have grabbed her attention: Béatrice de Rothschild Ephrussi and Eileen Gray. “Their stories are unexpected and heart-breaking – I long to bring them justice, dramatically. That’s what this Forgotten Women of France project is about for me. Telling the stories of women who’ve been erased from or misrepresented by history.”

This is where Beth needs help. “I’m looking for more stories of brave women that need to be told. I want to connect with historical sites who would value my bringing their spaces to life – and attracting more Anglophone tourists. I’d love to talk with organisations that help women who are dealing with violence – including, but not limited to, abuse from a partner, being forced into an early marriage or deprived of an education.”

Beth has been non-stop since she relocated to France 15 months ago and being fluently bilingual is definitely an advantage. “I grew up just outside of Chicago and from age four, went to a small private school attached to a teacher’s college. A French woman wanted her kids to go there, so she offered to teach French lessons. I started French at six, in first grade. I continued through high school, and in college, where I studied in Toulouse one year, worked the next summer in La Rochelle at a Credit du Nord. Years later, I married a French man. I guess France is in my destiny.”

She considers it a privilege to live on the Côte d’Azur. “I love Paris – the energy, the culture, the people I’ve met – but I feel it’s almost a physical need, to have this nature, this space around me. And I’m discovering amazing women to write about here, too. Wherever I am inspired and have stories to bring to life I am a happy camper.”

And Beth just learned that she has been awarded an artist’s residency at Le Chateau de la Napoule in Mandelieu. “I’ll get to spend a month there with the goal of bringing to life the story of Marie Clews, and her husband Henry. I’m thrilled!”

Article first published October 21, 2023.

Petites Primas

Jodie Penasa was eight years old when a friend told her about ballet. “It sparked an interest for me for some reason,” she remembers fondly. “And when I asked my mum if I could go to dance classes, she was shocked. I was a very shy child.”

Once Jodie put on her ballet shoes, she was hooked. “Even though I began dancing quite late, I had found my love. Time in the studio was always the best and so many of my happy childhood experiences and memories are involved in dance.”

To be a dancer, Jodie points out, you need many qualities – natural physicality, musicality and strength. “In my opinion, the most important in life is mental determination. Yes, you need the talent but, like in many sports, that’s not enough on its own. The strength, flexibility and discipline of the art are, to me, the reason that children should study dance.”

She adds, “For any child, the confidence of seeing hard work and focus paying off is the general life lesson we all want our kids to learn. And the physical side of dance offers children a great start in practicing a good physical healthy lifestyle. Obviously, there are the benefits of confidence and posture, too.”

Jodie started Petites Primas last year with a few students and is delighted to finally have her own dance school and bring the British-style of training to Monaco. “I am so happy to now be at the new MC Dance studios in Les Jardins d’Apolline where the school is growing. The studio is a hidden gem for Monaco, with ballet barres and full-length mirrors, it’s a little dancer’s dream.”

When Jodie first came to the Principality some fifteen years ago with her boyfriend-now-husband, she expected the stay to last a year or so. “We never went home! I soon wanted to get into teaching as I had been doing back in the UK.”

Jodie was “only nine or ten” when she took on a teaching role. “I was given my first pupil to teach my old competition dance to which, looking back, was pretty young, right? However, it never seemed strange to me. I never stopped teaching after that.”

Clearly to be a professional ballet dancer you need certain physical requirements and from a young age Jodie was told that she didn’t have enough turnout in her hips. “You may say that would be hard to manage but it only made me fight more to stay at the top. I think this gives me a benefit in teaching, I always had to work harder to find a way. I still do today.”

After loving the competitive side of dance, choreography and finishing professional dance college, Jodie knew she wanted to teach. “Like most arts, mastering something takes time and patience but when I see a child grow and improve, I can’t stop. I want more. It gives me such pleasure to be part of their journey.

“And the fantastic thing about dance as an art form is that there is always room for improvement, your work is never complete. Dance is forever moving forward and there are so many more techniques and we have ever-growing knowledge that can benefit children studying it.”

Petites Primas offers ballet and jazz classes for ages 2 (“with the help of mamas”) to teens and students can sign up for a year of training with payment made termly. “The studio is a positive place for children to learn and express themselves. Whether a child is looking for a weekly hobby or wants to study a few classes per week, I wish to help them reach their potential and teach them about their bodies and how to control them with positive feedback and encouragement,” Jodie emphasises.

“During class yesterday, a little five-year-old student told me, ‘I feel like a ballet dancer!’ She was so pleased, so proud of herself. She felt like she was centre stage in a dream. It was such a sweet and innocent comment but made me very happy. 

The mother of two admits: “My aim is to share my love of dance and hope it rubs off on the students. In fact, so many mums have shared stories with me and you can see the same light in their eyes when they talk of their childhood dance memories. It’s the reason they bring their little ones to dancing. We want to pass it on.”

For more see or contact Jodie:

Article first published October 13, 2023.

From the bedroom to the boardroom, Gavin Sharpe gives the inside scoop at leadership luncheon

A few months back, at the beginning of summer, I ran into psychotherapist Gavin Sharpe in Port Hercules. He had just finished the Wellbeing Window, his 60-minute talk show on Riviera Radio the first Wednesday of every month.

I had just finished an event for the Prince Albert Foundation, moderating a fascinating Masterclass on Courageous Leadership with Paul Polman, co-author of Net Positive: How Courageous Companies Thrive When They Give More Than They Take. As the former CEO of Unilever from 2009 to 2019, Paul proved you can couple purpose with profit by creating a 290% return for shareholders while the company consistently ranked number one in the world for sustainability and as one of best places to work.

For Gavin, who sums up his focus in two words – love and leadership – this was right up his alley: “Transformational leadership in 2023 is not exclusively about maximising shareholder value.” He sees first hand how the future “no longer rests in the hands of a few heroic leaders but with larger groups and teams. This is potentially a once in a lifetime shift and it’s fuelling my bedroom and boardroom work.”

In collaboration with Club Vivanova, Gavin will present How To Be An Exceptional Leader During Extraordinary Times, a business lunch sponsored by Savills on November 14 at the Fairmont. (International Leadership Day is November 18).

“I want those attending to leave with a sense of how modern-day leadership has changed and understand the skills needed to meet those changes,” explains the founder of Riviera Wellbeing.

Initially a qualified lawyer in the UK, Gavin co-founded a global recruitment business specialising in legal employment in the City of London. Some 15 years later, he switched careers and became a therapist and business coach. “I help people show up,” he says.

He explains this means helping others become the best version of themselves, personally and professionally. “Imagine looking through a camera lens which is misty. What happens when you wipe it with a cloth? We see better. That’s what therapy and coaching do. It removes the blind spots and roadblocks we self-impose and which hinder our growth.”

Gavin believes there is a huge shift taking place which is changing what we want, need and expect from home and work. “At work, we are living through a massive experiment since Covid. None of us know what the workplace will look like a few years from now. When you think about the fact that we now have four different generations in the workplace from baby-boomers to generation Z, it is little wonder that companies are struggling with cultural cohesion.”

The Monaco resident adds, “I don’t think there is an MBA programme on this planet that has equipped today’s leaders for our volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous workplace. That’s where I come in. I help leaders develop the resources to meet these changes.”

And at home? “In our personal lives, we are more stressed, we are more anxious and we are more medicated than at any other time in history. The impact on humanity is huge. Now add a changing workplace, global problems, such as climate change, an ageing population, political uncertainty and the list could go on, and we can see how the problems we face are interrelated. So yes, bedroom and boardroom. Love and leadership.”

Once upon it time, there was a belief that coaching and therapy were separate and never the twain shall meet. But these days, Gavin says he’s worked with racing drivers and billionaire businessmen. “I coach the person, not the problem. Likewise, therapists have a coaching toolkit which they dip into. So the separation can be important but it’s situation specific.”

For someone who has spent half his career in the corporate world and the rest working relationally, Gavin’s focus on love and leadership seems well-orchestrated. “If only I had planned it! At the start of my career, I just followed the money. That worked until it didn’t and I got bored. The more I follow my passion, the more it seems to lead me in the right direction and yes, I have had coaching and therapy along the way to get me here.”

Speaking openly about his lack of confidence growing up, he admits to not liking the Monaco cocktail party circuits – specifically the question of what he does for a living. “I think I am a bit insecure about whether I fit here. I still have no idea how to describe my work. I imagine people want a one-word answer. Banker. Lawyer. Private Equity. ‘Love and leadership’ sounds a bit too Californian but it’s growing on me. Like everyone else, I am a work in progress.”

However you describe his work, the success of the Wellbeing Window, which started back in 2021 as part of The Full English Breakfast with presenter Sarah Lycett, is indisputable. The show is inundated with email questions to the point that Gavin sometimes leaves the studio concerned he didn’t do justice to what are very serious topics.

On Wednesday, October 4th, he will be talking about The Workplace and Leadership. “When I am on air, it feels as if I’m having a fireside chat with a small group of locals. I think that sense of community is desperately missing from many of our lives and that is partly why we are seeking something additional from the workplace and why we need more emotionally attuned leaders.

“We are looking to replace some of our existential loneliness and we’re no longer prepared to go to work just for money. We want meaning.”

Tune in to the Wellbeing Window on Riviera Radio at 9 am on Wednesday, September 20th (Vulnerability) and Wednesday, October 4th (The Workplace and Leadership).

Child Car Monaco Ladies Vintage Rally 2023

The 10th edition of the Ladies Vintage Car Rally took place on Sunday, September 10th, with nearly a hundred women – and for the first time – men stepping out to support Child Care Monaco. This year’s dress code: “The Charleston”, a nod to Prince Rainier as 2023 marks the centenary of his birth.

Now, usually, I would write about how unique this fundraiser is, how it shines a very bright light on women in Monaco and how wonderfully they can come together for a humanitarian cause. I would probably say that Martine Ackermann founded Child Care Monaco in 2012 with a mission to “promote and help the education of disadvantaged children in the world”, and has on-the-ground projects in India, Guatemala and South Africa. And, surely, I would add that Martine not only pours her heart into organising this vintage car rally for women (with the help of Bernhard, Theo, Carla, Annie, Dominque and David Golland), but she also finds the time to support each and every one of us for our events across the year.

Instead, I want to share other rally driver’s experiences. Throughout the day, I spoke with familiar faces and new faces to the Ladies Vintage Car Rally.

Here are the day’s highlights:
8:15am: Breakfast at the Café du Paris. I met up with Olive and Maria, and Tracy. (Scroll down for lots of photos.)

9:45am: Departure of 39 classic cars, including a 1947 Delahaye 135 MS and 1962 1500 Giulia Spider Alfa Romeo, courtesy of the Prince’s Car Collection and its director, Valérie Closier.  (WATCH VIDEO TOP OF ARTICLE).

12pm: The group made their way west past Nice and up to Opio to the secluded (this was a speakeasy, after all) Le Mas des Geraniums, where lunch was followed by roulette, a tombola and dancing, and not necessarily in that order. Here is Béatrice Bordier and Magali Jacquet-Lagreze from CFM-Indosuez Monaco,

12pm: The group made their way west past Nice and up to Opio to the secluded (this was a speakeasy, after all) Le Mas des Geraniums, where lunch was followed by roulette, a tombola and dancing, and not necessarily in that order. Here is Béatrice Bordier and Magali Jacquet-Lagreze from CFM-Indosuez Monaco, which donated the use of six cars.

5 pm: The post-lunch route led to afternoon tea at l’Antre Potes in Eze. Newcomers Simone and Audrey share their thoughts.

7pm: The day comes to an end with a prize giving in the presence of Princess Stephanie at Castelroc, next to the Palace.

Breakfast shots from the Café du Paris.

Valérie Closier, Director of the Prince’s Car Collection.
Bernhard Ackermann leads the way.

Article first published September 11, 2023. All photos and videos copyright Nancy Heslin.

Why I shop at France’s most expensive supermarket

In the early morning of April 17, 2020, I was walking my dog when I saw two wild dogs wandering in the middle of the road. Our eyes locked just long enough for me to know what was about to happen. I scooped my dog into my arms and went into a brace position.

A high-pitch screech brought me back into my body, and when I opened my eyes, I realised it was me reacting to the sets of teeth piercing my skin. “They are going to kill you,” the voice in my head alerted. Somehow, I started running, dog clenched in arms. I darted across the street with the two beasts relentlessly chasing me as blood dripped down my legs.

This was halfway through the first covid lockdown so there were few vehicles passing by at 5:30 am. One knowingly drove by me but the 4-door car behind stopped. I jumped into the back seat. The dogs leapt onto the car as the driver tried to scare them off by honking. Eventually, the two (as I later learned) Malinois trained guard dogs that escaped from their villa continued toward Monaco and the young couple in the car dropped me off at home where I called the Police (the driver had already contacted them) who patched me through to an ambulance.

It wasn’t until after I was home from getting stitches and filing a police report (the dogs went on to attack three other victims in Monaco) that I realised I had no way of thanking the strangers who, literally, saved me and my dog from being mauled to death.

A few days later, a neighbourhood friend called to say the couple in the car worked at our local grocery story, Casino in Roquebrune-Cap-Martin.

When I reunited with them to express my gratitude, the driver told me a remarkable story. That same morning of the dog attack his two-door car wouldn’t start so he borrowed his girlfriend’s sedan to get to work on time. He said it was fate because with his coworker as a passenger there would not have been room for me in his car.

From that moment on, I have been a loyal customer of Casino Roquebrune-Cap-Martin. And I would be remiss, then, if I did not address this week’s headline calling it “France’s most expensive supermarket.”

Yes, it is pricey. This is a secret to no one. The staff talk about it, locals talk about it. It’s like saying people live in Monaco to avoid paying income tax.

Yet the store bordering Monaco has its advantages. It opens weekdays at 7:30 am, so you can shop before going to work. For the budget sensitive like me, there is the CasinoMax app which gives you a 10% discount on each item. And unlike the super-sized Carrefour Monaco chockablock with shoppers, this Casino has manageable floor space with less people hogging up the aisles.

It is a store all about proximity for the Saint Roman community of all ages who shop without cars and prefer to haul their buggies and recycled bags with daily provisions rather than shop online.

The couple who run the place go out of their way to say hello to me; when my native Canada is in the news that ask about my family. I am in no way defending the owners or their retail pricing strategy. The survey (see video below) did not reveal the details of their operating expenses. Maybe they could reduce prices, I don’t know.

What I do know is that they have an exceptional staff. Every time I walk into the supermarket, there is a sense of family. I am greeted with a friendly hello, and some chit chat. These workers are mostly thirtysomethings trying to live their lives like anyone else. Some are single parents; others have had tragic loss. Some are fanatic about Christmas and baking; others have lost 20kg and are now passionate about sports. They are all accommodating in their roles and I am not always the most patient of customers.

These human connections matter to me more than the bottom line. And I think we forget that behind every headline there are lives impacted. I will continue to support France’s most expensive grocery store because someone who works there once did the right thing to help me. And doing the right thing is priceless.

Article first published on September 7, 2023.

Read in French here:

Pourquoi je fais mes courses dans le supermarché le plus cher de France

Au petit matin du 17 avril 2020, je promenais mon chien lorsque j’ai aperçu deux chiens sauvages errer au milieu de la route. Nos yeux se croisèrent juste assez longtemps pour que je sache ce qui allait se passer. J’ai pris mon chien dans mes bras et je me suis mis en position de renfort.

Un cri aigu m’a ramené dans mon corps, et quand j’ai ouvert les yeux, j’ai réalisé que c’était moi qui réagissais aux séries de dents perçant ma peau. «Ils vont te tuer», m’a alerté la voix dans ma tête. D’une manière ou d’une autre, j’ai commencé à courir, mon chien serré dans les bras. J’ai traversé la rue en courant, les deux bêtes me poursuivant sans relâche tandis que le sang coulait sur mes jambes.

C’était à mi-chemin du premier confinement covid, donc il y avait peu de véhicules qui passaient à 5h30 du matin. L’un d’eux est passé à côté de moi sciemment, mais la voiture à 5 portes derrière s’est arrêtée. J’ai sauté sur la banquette arrière. Les chiens ont bondi dans la voiture tandis que le conducteur tentait de les effrayer en klaxonnant. Finalement, les deux chiens (comme je l’ai appris plus tard) de garde dressés malinois évadés ont continué vers Monaco et le jeune couple dans la voiture m’a déposé à la maison où j’ai appelé la police (le conducteur les avait déjà contactés) qui m’a mis en contact avec une ambulance.

Ce n’est qu’après être rentré chez moi après avoir subi des points de suture et déposé plainte (les chiens ont ensuite attaqué trois autres victimes à Monaco) que j’ai réalisé que je n’avais aucun moyen de remercier les inconnus qui, littéralement, ont sauvés moi et mon chien de la mutilation à mort.

Quelques jours plus tard, un ami du quartier m’a appelé pour lui dire que le couple dans la voiture travaillait dans notre épicerie locale, le Casino Roquebrune-Cap-Martin.

Lorsque je les ai retrouvés pour leur exprimer ma gratitude, le chauffeur m’a raconté une histoire remarquable. Le matin même de l’attaque, sa voiture à deux portes ne démarrait pas, alors il a emprunté la berline de sa petite amie pour se rendre au travail à l’heure. Il a dit que c’était le destin car avec son collègue comme passager, il n’y aurait pas eu de place pour moi dans sa voiture.

Depuis ce moment, je suis un client fidèle du Casino Roquebrune-Cap-Martin. Et je m’en voudrais donc de ne pas répondre au titre de cette semaine qui le qualifie de « supermarché le plus cher de France ».

Oui, c’est cher. Ce n’est un secret pour personne. Le personnel en parle, les locaux en parlent. C’est comme dire que les gens vivent à Monaco pour éviter de payer de l’impôt.

Pourtant le magasin limitrophe de Monaco a ses avantages. Il ouvre en semaine à 7h30, vous pouvez donc faire vos achats avant d’aller travailler. Pour les personnes sensibles au budget comme moi, il existe l’application CasinoMax qui vous offre une remise de 10 % sur chaque article. Et contrairement au très grand Carrefour Monaco rempli de clients, ce Casino a une surface au sol gérable avec moins de monde qui accapare les allées.

C’est un magasin de proximité pour la communauté de Saint Roman de tous âges qui fait ses courses sans voiture et préfère transporter ses caddies et sacs recyclés avec ses provisions du jour plutôt que de faire ses achats en ligne.

Le couple qui tient les lieux se met en quatre pour me dire bonjour ; lorsque mon Canada natal fait la une des journaux, ils posent des questions sur ma famille. Je ne défends en aucun cas les propriétaires ou leur stratégie de prix de détail. Le sondage (voir vidéo ci-dessous) n’a pas révélé le détail de leurs dépenses de fonctionnement. Peut-être qu’ils pourraient baisser les prix, je ne sais pas.

Ce que je sais, c’est qu’ils ont un personnel exceptionnel. Chaque fois que j’entre dans le supermarché, j’ai un sentiment de famille. Je suis accueilli par un bonjour amical et quelques bavardages. Ces travailleurs sont pour la plupart des trentenaires qui tentent de vivre leur vie comme tout le monde. Certains sont des parents seuls; d’autres ont subi une perte tragique. Certains sont fanatiques de Noël et de la pâtisserie; d’autres ont perdu 20 kg et sont désormais passionnés de sport. Ils sont tous accommodants dans leur rôle et je ne suis pas toujours le client le plus patient.

Ces liens humains comptent pour moi plus que le résultat net. Et je pense que nous oublions que derrière chaque gros titre, des vies sont touchées. Je continuerai à soutenir le supermarché le plus cher de France parce que quelqu’un qui travaille là a fait ce qu’il fallait pour m’aider. Et faire ce qu’il faut n’a pas de prix.

Article publié pour la première fois le 7 septembre 2023.

Article publié pour la première fois le 7 septembre 2023. Read article in English:


When Didier Rubiolo closed the doors at Stars’N’Bars on January 27, he said he would be back with big changes. He has lived up to his word.

His awe-inspiring new restaurant, Conscientiae, is the place to be. Not in the “Look at me, I’m dancing on the tables” kind of way, but rather to “BE”.  

“This is a new chapter but not a new Stars’N’Bars,” affirms Didier. “Stars was a big family institution that Kate Powers and I were very lucky to have created. This is continuity but we have to differentiate ourselves from that brand with a new name. I am excited to face this new challenge, something that is so positive.”  

When Conscientiae opens on July 29, there will be no lingering sentimentality from the previous space. Gone are the shiny cars and memorabilia covering the walls with big screen TVs and music. Instead, the zen-garden vibe interior will feature natural materials and plants, mirrors and soft lighting with the noticeable absence of noise: no music or televisions. A spectacular six-meter olive tree will hold court in the middle of the marble-finished bar.  

Open all day, the main floor restaurant (with a terrace from September) will serve 200 customers total a day instead of 800 with lunch (12-3 pm) and dinner from 7 pm. There will be afternoon tea with, say, a choice of a sandwich or homemade cake, and breakfast will be available in due time.

Having arrived in Monaco 40 years ago as a classically-trained chef, Didier has “pioneered the concept of healthier, conscious, and mindful dining” since early 2000s. His awareness for the environment blossomed when he and Kate started spending time on their sailboat, which led them to cofound Monacology back in 2004. “Years ago, 30 miles from the coast the blue Mediterranean Sea lay before you. Now all you see is plastic, tires and pollution. When sailing you’d see a few cruise ships and then, especially before Covid, it was cruise liners and tankers – bigger and bigger – between Spain, Corsica and Croatia.”  

With Conscientiae – which in Latin is “con”’ (with) et “scientia’ (knowledge) – Didier has transformed Stars’N’Bars’ 1800-square-metres into the country’s first multifeatured centre for environmental innovation with an eco-oriented restaurant, wellbeing floor and a private club space on the top floor. Even though the concept carries on the sustainable vision Didier and Kate both shared for our planet, there is no point in comparing restaurants.  

Conscientiae is completely different – a smaller, calming space to unwind over a 3-hour meal with prices ranging from €16 to €50. “Nowadays we are always rushing around,” says Didier. “Here it will be the opposite. You’ll have a table and space, where you are not bothered by noise and have simple food that is elaborately prepared so you can discover things that you would not have at home.”  

Didier is creating a narrative. “There will be a story behind everything we do, from our suppliers – a small producer who raises his animals outdoors and loves them – to serving our neutral water in beautiful crystal-filled glass carafes.”  

He explains that locally-sourced plant-based produce will be the stars of his limited menu. While a restaurant garden is in the pipeline from next year, for now Didier is working with Alexandra Garavan, who supplies three-star chefs with vegetables. “I’m not going to tell her what I want; I will ask what she has and we will then make something. That’s the opposite of what happens at the moment.” For the launch, Didier is going back to his kitchen roots to explore a “menu for the planet”.  

The zero-waste policy will continue. “We did this with Stars’N’Bars and we will continue to push it further. We will try and reduce waste in the kitchen and our water consumption, with water for rinsing veggies to be reused in the vegetable garden. We will separate and weigh all of our garbage and we will know exactly what comes in and what goes out, in terms of waste. The important thing with portions is for customers to eat everything on their plate so that nothing is thrown away.”  

Additionally, no industrial products or processed foods will be used. “Today we have substitutes for plastic packaging, but even these have a life cycle that is really short. It has to stop. If you want to take away a plat du jour, we will make 20 to 30 portions packed in Monaco’s new glass take-away dishes and when there is none left, there is none left. You want a coffee-to-go? Bring your own cup.”  

Didier is outspoken when it comes to over-consumption and the environment. “If we look at global warming the best thing is to consume less – it’s the easiest and most rapid technology. Do we need 25 cars? Do we need 10 pairs of shoes? It’s not logical. We overload ourselves, and we have to pay for that. I have a bicycle that’s 30 years old, but it’s not because it’s 30 years old that I need to change it. It works. I don’t understand.

“I’m not against smart growth. With Conscientiae, I’m creating a business concept that doesn’t exist in Monaco. The profitability is simple. Yes, we are lucky to have a huge space to bring together all these values and to shape a thought-provoking platform where entrepreneurs, investors, and tastemakers are brought together to defy the status quo by leading positive changes.”  

He acknowledges that, “There will always be people who won’t like this change but we – my manager, my chef, my cleaner – are proud to work in such a place. We will have confidence in our environment, and in human values. It’s not an ego trip, I’ve gained wisdom, I’ve understood.”  

Didier stops for a moment and leans in. “You know, I’ve met many small producers and when I see their passion in growing each tomato, when they explain each plant, I think, ‘Wow, you can no longer just eat a tomato in front of the TV. It deserves to be appreciated.’  

“This is what we are trying to communicate. Being aware of this moment that has been given to us. Which is why Conscientiae will really be the place to be.”  

The Conscientiae website is under construction. To make a reservation, you have to turn up in person.

Article first published July 27, 2023.

Netflix’s Parisian Agency opens Kretz Monaco

The “ordinary” Kretz family has charmed Netflix viewers with its series The Parisian Agency (L’Agence) while showing exclusive multimillion-dollar properties in the most extraordinary locations across France, including a mind-blowing €120 million listing outside of Cannes. With three seasons on the streaming giant, they have opened their first physical office, Kretz Family Real Estate Monaco.

To mark the occasion, a cocktail party at the Palais de la Scala location kicked off the launch on Wednesday, April 5. Parisian Power couple Olivier and Sandrine Kretz, who founded the agency in 2007, were on hand with son Valentin.

WATCH VIDEO: Valentin Kretz of The Parisian Agency on Netflix talks about how the family ended up opening an office in Monaco.

Also at the meet and greet were the two dynamic women who will run the Monaco office, Elodie Stienlet and Elisabeth Kozulina, both partners of Kretz Family Real Estate Monaco.

Before Netflix, the Kretz Agency dealt mostly in and around Paris, and Montpellier, where Martin studied at university. Netflix picked up “The Parisian Agency” reality show from cobuyers TMC and TF1 and now distribute it in 190 countries with subtitles in 35 languages. After two seasons on the streaming giant, the family business started developing more in the international property market, which led to the Monaco office.

“We now get requests from owners to put their properties on the show because they understand that the top luxury estates are very hard to sell and this is an amazing new way to reach people,” says Valentin Kretz, who worked in investment finance before turning to commercial real estate in New York. When he joined the family business in 2014, older brother Martin was already onboard and younger brother Louis then started in 2017. The youngest of the boys, Raphael, graduated from high school last year and is now doing an internship with the family agency. (Even grandma Majo is a regular on the show.) They work out of their 1930s home office in Boulogne Billancourt and all the sales commissions go into one pot to be divided equally amongst the family.

WATCH VIDEO: Olivier and Sandrine Kretz at Monaco launch reminiscing about the early years.

Not being a franchise is a “huge advantage” and in sixteen years, the Kretz family now counts more than 30 people in their network from Normandy and the Mediterranean to the mountains (Annecy, Courcheval…) and islands (St Baths, Martinique…). They are big in London, Portugal and the US. “We have an extended family through our agency. We work with others who share the same values and there is no fighting, no competition. We follow our clients, and they have expanded everywhere,” says Valentin. Read more about the Kretz family.

WATCH VIDEO: Former BBC producer Rebecca McVeigh weighs in the popularity of The Parisian Agency at Kretz Monaco party.

Article first published April 5, 2023.