Back and forth, hither and yon – whether on my habitual trajectory between Touraine and Paris or further afield… destinations, encounters, events and observations I can’t resist sharing.

Bag envy and burqas

June 26, 2012

Our daughter Sarah is back from college in Manhattan, where she’s a fashion design major at Parsons.

Her summer job is selling women’s clothing and accessories in a high-end ready to wear boutique on rue St. Honoré in Paris.  The other day, three women in burqas (sans outlawed niqab veil) entered the boutique.

The fact they were wearing burquas wasn’t surprising, as the sales help are accustomed to shrouded Middle Eastern clients.

Instead of browsing the racks, the woman clustered by the door fishing in their Hermès ‘Kelly’ bags.

They each pulled out a fitted transparent plastic cover, slipped it over their handbag and headed out into the rain without a word.

Sarah was miffed she didn’t capture the scene on camera.  Funny how clothing intended to repel the gaze of lascivious men, throws into high relief an accessory that’s the object of intense envy among status hungry fashionistas.

Who could help but stare.


What do you think?  Leave a comment below!


Edible fragrance: eau de huile d’olive

June 12, 2012

Competition in the haut olive oil category is on a par with fine wine.

Top of the line French oil is from Provence*, and one savvy producer – Chateau d’Estaublon – is carving a niche straddling the fragrance  and food categories.   The minimalist spray flacon and carton are inspired by  Chanel perfume, and the description “hints of fresh cut grass with a slightly fervent finish”  made me want to spritz it on my neck.

They suggest spraying it on vegetables, salad or fresh pasta.  The flavor is light and quite delicious.

I received mine as a hostess gift from a chic Parisian woman.  It is so quintessentially French that it may become my go-to-gift to bring over when visiting friends in the States.

For the moment is is distributed in the US by World Harvest Foods of Missouri, but their mark up is surprisingly steep.  Must have something to do with weight of the thick glass.  Best to hold off until your next visit.

*The official appellation is AOP les Baux-de-Provence.

Marrakesh II

February 5, 2011

It didn’t take long for my eerie premonition of Magreban Revolution to play out in Tunisia and now Egypt.  Morocco could well be next.  I was riveted by the surge of protests which erupted in Tunisia the week of our return.  They gained astonishing momentum, prompting the clandestine flight of Ben Ali, the autocratic, unelected president, in what Tunisians are calling their ”Jasmine Revolution”.  Ben Ali, who ousted Tunisia’s popular post-colonial president in 1987, had been preparing a gilded retirement in France, where he owns sumptuous properties in Paris, the Cote d’Azur and Courchevel.  He was refused the right to land here and members of his immediate family, already in France, were told to leave.  So much for that pipe dream.

The mood in France is supportive of the Tunisian people’s emancipation. The Sarkozy government took heat for protracted silence throughout the protests, then proposing support to help quell violence.  Most took that as a sign of support for Ben Ali rather than a strategy to avert violence used against protesters. The police fired on crowds and there were scores of deaths.  Hard for the French administration to stage a graceful about-face after positioning Ali as a close friend, putting up with his despotic, corrupt rule, because he squashed Islamic opposition parties and claimed the healthiest economic growth record in Africa.  Ali was hardly a comic book villain like Saddam Hussein, but has plenty in common with Permanent President Mubarak in Egypt where freedom of speech and true political opposition are also forbidden – as we can no longer ignore.

Morocco’s Royal Highness, despite his seeming popularity, has reason to be nervous.  The domino effect could take off as it did in formerly communist Eastern Europe.  The fact that Mohammed VI’s portrait is ubiquitous in commercial establishments throughout Morocco can be interpreted as a gesture of fear rather than fealty.

Geopolitics aside, I did promise to share visit recommendations to the Rose city. The reaction of French friends to our Marrakech holiday was a chorus of,  “It’s nothing like it was… isn’t the real Morocco… Morocco à la Française.”  But hey, french tourists flock to New York and Miami – which are hardly representative of America’s heartland.  Key to Marrakech’s appeal is the alluring cocktail of cosmopolitan sophistication, exoticism and a whiff of decadence – out of your cultural comfort zone without being overly disorienting or dangerous.

If you read French (and even if you can’t), pick up a free copy of the monthly official Marrakech Pocket Guide, distributed in hotels and restaurants.  It has a calendar of events, most of the addresses you’ll need grouped by category, plus ads for many good restaurants, cafes and shops.

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Beauty Secrets of a Parisian Makeup Artist

November 2, 2010

As with her diet, a French woman’s beauty and grooming regimen tends to be well balanced.  She won’t deny herself much, yet consumes in moderation. A realist who plays up her best features rather than obsess over flaws; she accepts that beauty, like an impeccable jardin à la Française, demands consistent maintenance.

Keeping up appearances is a vital tenet of French culture, particularly out in public, which is why my daughters give me the once over before I leave the house, lest I regress to American standards and slip out to the bakery in running sweats.  On average, French women over thirty don’t favor conspicuous makeup.  Color statements are acceptable for hair dye and pedicures. Glowing skin and alluring eyes are the priority (over 60% of French cosmetic purchases are for foundation and mascara).  It’s rare to see women put lipstick on in public, in part because they don’t wear it consistently.

However, teens and young women in their twenties are breaking out of the natural look, experimenting and having fun with bronzing powder, false eyelashes, heavy eyeliner and coats of mascara, plus playful hues of nail enamel.   A Re-boot of Bardot in the 6os. Read More »

Girls (& Guys) Want to Have Fun

October 20, 2010

A chill wind swept over Paris this weekend.  Collars were up on coats pulled out for their first sortie of the season, as exuberant sun-burnished limbs of la rentrée went under cover along with fingers, toes, and décolletés.

Leaves scuttling along the pavement past gutters strewn with cigarette butts and vagrant scraps of trash, signaled the idyll of Indian summer had segued into la grogne of strike season…a shift apt to discourage the sunniest of dispositions.  Humor being the best revenge, I decided to amuse myself delving into the confidential milieu of luxury lingerie. Read More »

Spitalfields Market in London’s East End

August 14, 2010
spitalfields images

Spent a few days in London mid June –  a trip I try to manage every few months.  Between Ryan Air flights from Tours to Stansted and the EuroStar train, the voyage is rapid, convenient and inexpensive (when booked in advance). London’s enormous size, combined with its dense history, vibrant contemporary culture and the most international flavor of any capital I know – offer infinite fields of discovery and this time, on advice from an artist friend,  I set off to explore around Old Spitalfields Market, – London’s trendy-with-grit fashion/foodie/flea market hub. Liverpool Station is a convenient Tube stop.

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