A little bit of Japan

November 2019 , almost a year ago …this was our 3rd trip to Japan , the land of my grand parents , a place were I feel like I belong somehow but not quit fit in …literally ! $50 round trip tickets on JAL with our miles , last chance to take a break before the Holiday rush and we were off …Yes this was a time when we could travel freely …

Even the sleeves of my Yukata are way too short on me ! Thankfully because Japanese women have to fold up the kimono at the belt , they are always extra long for that purpose …long enough to cover my legs !

This post is about sharing with you the beautiful work that our friend Yukari makes but since nobody can travel right now , I will give you a little taste of Japan too ! Here in Tokyo on our last day together , Yukari was wearing one of our French scarf with a kimono jacket of her design and I was wearing the vintage Kimono blouse she had just given me … mixing western and Japanese look .

Japan is such a Country of contrast : Ancestral traditions and cutting edge technology , Zen beautiful gardens and organized chaos in the city .

We had been to Kyoto during cherry blossoms season , saw sunrise over Mont Fuji surrounded by red maple trees , visited the mind blowing museum of Itchiku kubota master kimono artist but there is much more to discover , so once again , we rented a car and left Tokyo megalopolis on a rainy late October morning . We just love road trips …the unexpected finds , the local food and with a GPS it really is no trouble at all . Also everybody travel by public transportation so finding parking for a car is super easy everywhere !

Nikko National park was gorgeous and peaceful in the rain

We spent the night in a small Ryokan or traditional Inn near Lake Chuzenji . Kegon Fall was just a short walk away

The next day we drove through the mountains through the most incredible scenery . The narrowest road winding around small lakes, all a wild but perfect Japanese garden .Visions of old traditional drawings were right before our eyes : bamboo forest in the early morning fog , misty waterfalls, autumn colors brightening the rocks . This has been by far our favorite and longest drive in Japan , an amazing 12 hour day . Despite not having photos ( we could not really stop in the middle of this one lane road ) it is the one most vivid in my memory.

Our plan was to drive along the coast of the Sea of Japan .We found similarities with the rugged coast of Oregon and Northern California, but for the food and rice paddies !

The little fishing town of Wajima is actually renowned for its lacquerware . We stroll the morning market to stock up on snacks to eat on the road ( Fuji apples, dried persimmons , roasted chestnuts , dried squid ? ) and go in every single lacquer shop . After looking everywhere in Tokyo , we were searching here for special large ramen bowls which we were lucky to find !

The coast is pounded by strong waves and wind making for a very scenic drive

We drove on the beach and kept going south to Amanohashidate ( I never thought I would remember that name ) a little coastal town just an hour north of Kyoto . In 2018 Amanohashidate bay became sister with Mont St Michel as one of the world’s most beautiful bay ! Amanohashidate ( now you start to remember that name ) roughly translates to “bridge to heaven” and it is said that the sandbar resembles a meandering pathway connecting heaven and earth when it is viewed from the mountains …or a dragon if looking at it upside down from in between your legs ūüėČ

We walked the 3 kilometer sandbar , wrote a wish on the tiny fan , hung it and made a prayer at the temple…

Ine is a traditional fishing village with houses over the water where fisherman can store their boat . Not so many are still actively fishing and the houses are being transformed into inns where people can experience life like in the old days . We wished to have stayed there but this was a Holiday week end and all accommodations had been booked months in advance ( https://www.japaneseguesthouses.com/ryokan-search-results/Ine/ ) Nevertheless we could still experience a special 10 course dinner at Chitose Ryokan’s restaurant. Pascal’s childhood friend Arnaud is a wine broker in Provence and Mr Yamazaki one of his clients . As a lover of France and it’s great wines , Mr Yamazaki’s restaurant offers the best of Japanese local cuisine paired with the best imported French wines …the cuisine has a little fusion as well , mixing Kobe beef with perfect wine sauce , sashimi with olive oil and soy sauce dip …This was a real treat !

Back in Tokyo November 3rd is a public Holiday . It is recognized as a day to celebrate peace and freedom and promote culture. (Although prior to the establishment of this holiday in 1948, November 3 was also a national holiday called Meiji-Setsu commemorating the birthday of Emperor Meij . At the beautiful Meiji Shrine it is a special day to have a wedding and celebrate children age 3, 5 and 7 “Shichigosan” , dressing them up in Kimono ( https://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2008/11/11/reference/its-fall-when-kids-in-kimono-fete-7-5-3-rituals/ )

Formal kimonos are black with family crest on each arm and worn for special occasions like weddings . It is so beautiful to see everybody dressed up and makes me want to wear a kimono one day too…but this is a serious big investment even for a Japanese family so I will enjoy looking at all the patterns, accessories and wear my western kimono blouse !

When girls turned 7, parents celebrated the ‚Äúobitoki‚ÄĚ rite, in which their daughters went from using straps to secure their kimono to wearing obi…

That reminded me that in my armoire back in Provence , I have my first kimono with Obi belt as well as books I found when I was cleaning up my teenage bedroom last year …a strange combination of Provence style and Japanese accents . Did I mention my Japanese name is Mariko ?

I had asked my friend Yukari to help me find a Yukata for my mum’s 90th birthday. Yukata are casual cotton kimonos worn during the hot summer months . My mother had wore my grand mother’s one to shreds , it was so special to her and i was determined to find one that she could wear now . But describing it to my friend made me realize it wasn’t going to be that easy , even being in Japan . They do not make that type of very light weight cotton with Shibori tying technique which gives the fabric airiness …we had to look in vintage kimono shops . Third shop , in a bin on the floor were some indigo yukatas. We asked the lady who said they were 80 years old but had never been worn ! This was exactly what my grand mother’s kimono must have looked like brand new … We buy the 2 and have one trimmed guessing the perfect length for her . The joy in my mom’s eyes when she saw her birthday gift was precious…she was over the moon happy ! She knew instantly what it was and what it meant (On the right is my grand mother’s yukata all faded , left the new one at the exact same length )

Shopping for vintage Obi belts with Yukari who makes the clutches we sell in our shop was fantastic ! I could see how difficult it was for her to find ones without defect , stains and she could understand what I was looking for that would appeal to our clients : traditional Japanese yet modern enough that they could use them just to go out to dinner . We picked some obi that she magically transformed into beautiful hand sewn clutches …

You too can have a little bit of Japan as we always have in stock Yukari’s special silk obi clutches. Here is our current selection

Makes a unique gift too !

They can be bright and modern !

Since the day Yukari gave me this beautiful blouse , I had been wanted to bring some in at the shop . I thought of a couple of clients who could be loving these just as much as myself ! Luckily her shipment of clutches and blouses came in just as we could re open our shop in June ! These tunics are made from vintage silk formal kimonos and have the family crest ( the little white sign on each arm ) Yukari undo each kimono and sew the fabric back to match the pattern in order to make the top . It is flattering , light , does not wrinkle ( perfect to travel , have something to dress up if needed ) and fits most body types since you can wear them with or without the belt .

These were the kimonos before the transformation . It is not always easy to imagine the result but you can trust Yukari’s talent and experience to design the outfit featuring the best features of the kimono pattern . Colors that suit you and your style are most important .

Each blouse came with a carefully chosen silk Obijime belt which allow you to wear the tunic with or without it depending on your style . And you do not need to be as tall as me either , you can see how pretty it looks on my friend Hiroko who got one for herself ! I am so happy we sold all 3 blouses already so now we are offering you to choose from Yukari’s kimono collection and have yours made to order !

Length of the tunics is about 29″ . Bust and high hip average size are 40 ” but it can be made up to about 47″ . Below the high hips , the blouse isn’t sewn to give plenty of room around the hips to seat and be comfortable . If you have any question do not hesitate to contact me by email maisonprovence@sbcglobal.net or text message at 619 518 0401 . I will have my own blouse at the shop so you can see how it is made and I am happy to advise and help before you make your decision .

Seeing the whole kimono gives a great idea of what it takes to make the blouse . The ones below do not have the belt option for a looser poncho unique size fit . Even the colorful ones are stunning !

Here are the options !

This is an other of her design I love and wear !

I am most happy to support such talented young women who started making dresses with her mother and love being able to share this with those who appreciate the uniqueness of her work .

Her clothes are timeless !

Provence in winter

Dear friends , clients , clients who have known us through all these years , new readers this post is more personal than usual, but this year is not a usual year .¬† Today we should be flying back from Provence with tons of sunny photos of summer days , lavender fields in bloom and bustling farmers markets loaded with ripe fruits . But this year is not this kind of year . As many of us had to cancel our travels abroad and still have to shelter in place , I will bring you instead the last part of Alice and I trip to France in January …a bit of winter in the middle of summer ! We knew we were lucky to have gone then when Covid 19 hit us …but I did not know yet that this would also be the last time I would be with my mother , celebrating her 90th birthday surrounded by her entire family …the happiest of times … These memories fill my heart with so much love and I am so grateful to have had that time . As France got into a very tight confinement , nursing homes closed down to all visitors and as many other elderly through out the country , my sweet little mom started suffering from the isolation , eat less , lost her grasp on life , lost weight and within an unimaginable 4 weeks she was gone . I cannot lie that not being able to go and be with her hurt a lot until I accepted the circumstances and made the most of the last times I could speak with her and have a beautiful conversation that will stay with me for ever .IMG_0998(Edited) (Large)

Provence was colder than Paris . The Mistral was blowing . We had flown down to Marseille at the end of our day at Maison et Objet Show and by the time we arrived home near Orange it was already 10.30pm …just to realize that the furnace had stopped working some time ago and the radiators were cooling rapidly . We immediately started working to prepare for the next day Birthday Party …Alice decorating , cleaning dishes and glasses while I was hauling wood up to the second floor to feed the fireplace first thing in the morning . We had 20 people coming over !

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Orange Roman Arc de Triomphe at night

 

IMG_0917(Edited) (Large)IMG_1022 (Large)We played Bingo , eat delicious cakes , she opened presents and the 3 of us ended the day by the fire to recover from a busy , exciting day . Tomorrow Monday , I had to find a repair guy for the furnace …Well Monday turned into Tuesday , which turned into Wednesday late afternoon until someone could come and get the heater going again . We survived with an old electric heater , confining ourselves in the kitchen with my mum giving Alice her first cooking classes all in French !¬† Not only she was learning how to make a proper black truffle omelet but she also was getting a crash course in French ! We laugh , we eat and despite spending most of our time with our wool coats on , we had a great time ….maybe more than Alice was bargaining for but this was real life in Provence , Peter Mayle style more than Patricia Wells style …

Vaison la Romaine is a lovely Roman town as the name say … big enough but not too big¬†¬† very charming . I took Alice for a little hike up to the castle ruins one afternoon . The cobblestones were slippery , moss was growing everywhere , the light was winter grey just like all the stones …even the local seemed to be hiding !

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Time flies …we drove to Avignon to buy some crepe pans at a big supermarket so i could ship them before to fly back to San Diego and took a quick tour of the city … L’Hotel d’Europe was quiet this time of the year …

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I cooked one last Japanese meal with my mom , packed all the flowers , photos to decorate her room , took the chocolates and cookies left so she could share with her friends at the nursing home , her home away from home . We talked about her next big birthday party when she would turn 100 ; the sky was the limit … One last hug and I was gone once again .¬† Love you Mom , you’re in my heart , always .

My mom’s favorite legend of the hummingbirds

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Maison & Objet Paris

Can you believe we are on our 8th week of confinement ?!¬† Things are easing up a bit , our door is open but we still cannot let anybody in and only take orders via phone or text¬† on my cell ( 619 518 0401 ) Thank you for keeping us alive in this context¬† ! Mother’s Day was a great day under this new normal ; we are grateful for your support , for having each other¬† and just being healthy . Taking it a day at a time is all we can do and the best we can do sometimes …

I am taking a break from taking photos of products ( which I will post later to bring you more things that are hiding in here )¬† so that I can write this post to follow up on our trip to Paris . We thought January was not the best time to go when now looking back we realize how incredibly lucky we’ve been¬† to have that time , totally unthinkable now …who knows when Maison et Objet will happen again or how ? Well , I am glad I can take you there now !

IMG_3354 (Large)With the strikes going strong , we are lucky to even have a metro to take us to the show…it is packed like rush hour in Tokyo . First day and the world is coming to visit M&O …a scene from the past ?? IMG_3285 (Large)IMG_3287 (Large)IMG_3288 (Large)This show is huge , many gigantic halls well organized in sections and despite not being able to see the end of it , we are planning to see it all in 2 days ! IMG_3441 (Large)

IMG_3431 (Large)We start slow at the Object section where we can find things for our Maison …No matter if we carry the brand already or not , there is always something to discover¬† . Tissages de l’Ouest is one of the brand we carry and we love to see what’s new !IMG_0943 (Large)

There is a map for “Made in France” and we are following the thread¬† …

Some ideas are very clever like these drinking straws being actual real straws !IMG_3332 (Large)Some still clever but not for everyone …IMG_3301 (Large)The French stationary line I fell in love with and that we will carry soon …a mix of Rifle paper and “Anthropologie” , a little bohemian “French style” ! IMG_3296 (Large)

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IMG_3295 (Large)Whether we call the trend Bohemian or vintage , prints are everywhere from wall paper to slippers ! We are very tempted to start the trend here too ! IMG_3327 (Edited) (Large)

The new and improved market rolling bag folds so you can carry it easily when on your way to the grocery shop or to store at home or in your car ….and it comes in fun prints bien sur !IMG_3306 (Large)

IMG_3307 (Large)Price was the only issue that was and is still making me hesitate to order some …same for the bow ties ( noeud papillon or “noeud pap” )¬† that also came in so many prints !

Time for a quick break and for Alice to finally have her first “jambon beurre” sandwich IMG_3329 (Large)Color color color …rich and deep just like we’ve seen at Merci shop the day before ! IMG_0949 (Large)Unfortunately these twin sisters do not want to export yet as they are already too busy with the European market or we would have these already !

 

The original lavender sachet , Made in Provence just like my mom taught me …I use to make and sell mine during the summer at my parent’s gas station . I have been trying to give a class to show how to make these special wands but have a hard time finding enough fresh lavender to buy from the local farms who want to keep their production for their own sales or distillation …maybe this summer ! Let me know if you would like to attend and I will start a list .

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Everything is inspirational …so much creativity ! IMG_0880 (Large)

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Day 2 …we made it again with our suitcases this time as we will fly to Marseille tonight . Air France had a counter at the show where we could check in our bags and avoid hauling them around from the convention center to the airport just 10mns shuttle away . This allowed us to stay at the show until the last minute without stress . IMG_3481 (Large)We are starting with the Metiers d’Art which include artists as well as artisans perpetuating century old traditional crafts like the Anduze vases IMG_3383 (Large)

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Or contemporary expressions of French style

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IMG_3398 (Large)3D frame of Gustave Eiffel in his studio working on a big project …

 

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Taking a quick break before to move to the home section of the show . The trend is very much into 20’s style …small rounded shapes , lots of velvet , brass , funky browns, dusty pinks and copper tones . Every living space has to look like a bar or boudoir , even the contemporary brands like Ligne Roset are showing it . It is not my thing but I can see young hipsters going crazy for it ! IMG_3446 (Large)

On the other side , natural , linen and soft pastels  are still current IMG_3349 (Large)

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Love how creative the displays are …IMG_3434 (Large)Showcasing farm style dishes in matte finish¬† and muted colors

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Even the traditional cafe chairs are coming in pastels too IMG_3473 (Large)

We cannot resist a little Christian Lacroix inspiration again …IMG_3455 (Large)How cool are these platters !IMG_3457 (Large)

Merci Louis is still for me¬† THE brand with the most unique style and creativity¬† keeping a French identity and giving it a twist¬† ‚ÄúThe brand‚Äôs concept consists in juggling with the classic style codes of 17th and 18th century France and using them to create contemporary objects ” We carried some of their trompe l’oeil candle holders , whimsical chandeliers , trays, file boxes when they first launched the brand in 2013 IMG_3449 (Large)

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Parchment paper chandelier

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Trompe l’oeil candle holders

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File boxes

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IMG_3423 (Large)Just for Alice … IMG_3420 (Large)IMG_3419 (Large)

IMG_3468 (Large)IMG_3467 (Large)This is the inspiration for a window Alice did after coming back ! It is still up even though the leaves have started to wilt but it reminds me of Paris so I have a hard time giving it up . We might have to do an other fresh one for you to enjoy …soon we hope !IMG_3475 (Large)

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L’Ile St Louis ~ Le Marais ~ Le Haut Marais …What a day !

Dear friends and clients ,

Already 4 weeks that our shop has its doors closed to the public …it is still surreal but we have been able to stay in touch via our social medias , emails , shipped birthday gifts and care packages to loved ones , have put in place a curbside pick up hotline on my cell ( 619 518 0401 ) and have received lots of heart warming support by our tight community of long time customers . It is overwhelming to feel so much love and we are forever grateful .¬† In the meantime I will try to take you away from it all with this post ….lets walk and discover the hippest neighborhoods of Paris together. IMG_0798 (Large)Sunrise from our room …traffic is already heavy as people cannot rely on public transportation and so can’t we . We’ll start with a nice breakfast at the hotel looking at Notre Dame before to head out¬† . This hotel location has really been the best in these conditions , we can just step outside and stroll along the Seine . All of Paris is within reach !

Notre Dame reconstruction seems to be on the way IMG_3151 (Large)We are crossing onto l’Ile Saint Louis oh so well known for its ice cream shop “Berthillon” but it is no weather for that right now and this little island has a lot more to offer ! IMG_3152 (Large)We have just put a foot on the island and here is Alice’s favorite …Stationary ! IMG_3154 (Large)I recognize some lines we sell and find a new one I love …reminds me of Rifle Papers with an “Anthropologie” bohemian look …

How cool is this “fan” journal ! So you can¬† write in secret …

IMG_3155 (Large)Fun old fashion surprise gift pouches IMG_3158 (Large)There is even a Youth Hostel on the Ile and not so shabby too  !

Around the corner some young high school kids are getting ready for some protest . In France you learn early to barricade and fight …it’s in your blood , our national anthem!

2nd on Alice’s list of favorites : Antique shops . L’Ile St Louis is also well know for that . You just wander and find hidden squares with shops everywhere but a whole remodel is going on right now , lots and lots of construction witch will make for an even prettier re-opening of all those shops . http://www.levillagesaintpaul.com/index-en.html

The ones we found open were well curated and so very French ! IMG_3170 (Large)IMG_3173 (Large)Au Petit Bonheur La Chance …Try out your chance …you may be lucky ! http://aupetitbonheurlachance.fr/

IMG_3181 (Large)IMG_3180 (Large)La M√Ęle d’Effeenne concept store , the concept of 2 very creative minds : clothes, jewelry, home accessories , part Couture , part steampunk , eclectic and probably the most unique, stylish beautiful shop we came across ( it was still closed when we walked by so google them to see photos of what’s hiding inside )¬† http://www.lamaledeffeenne.com/ IMG_3185 (Large)One bridge crossing and we are stepping into the Marais . Fashionable Le Marais …little brother of New York¬† SoHo,¬† AKA¬† SoMa ( South Marais ) versus even more hip Haut Marais¬† / NorMa ( Northern Marais ) often compared to Nolita in NYC …you already get the picture !IMG_3195 (Edited) (Large)And here it is …my new favorite : combo chocolatier and patisserie , Japanese flavors and French know how !!! Never heard of them but it was love at first sight . You read about my love for Aoki patisserie in Day 1 blog post in Paris but this is the new updated and improved version of a French/Japanese patisserie . It has all the attention to details and finesse without the feeling of being overly fancy … totally approachable . You just want to eat that delicious cake ! IMG_0749 (Large)

http://les-trois-chocolats-paris.com/IMG_0751 (Large)Yuzu lemon , Hojicha (roasted green tea ) , Sakura ( cherry blossom ) , shiso ( a leaf with very unique flavor used like cilantro garnish ) wasabi ?? so many discoveries to be made , if this does not excite your taste buds ?!IMG_3189 (Large)I picked a bunch of chocolates for the road but I could seriously have bought the whole store ! How about these matcha “almond tuiles” . Tuiles are my mom’s specialty …no shop in Provence made better ones than hers …and she taught me how to …I just have to blend some matcha in mine now … Leaving inspired !

IMG_3196 (Edited) (Large)Popelini : I am not sure their Cream puffs are fabulous but the display was very clever and fun! IMG_3197 (Large)We pass the elegant Place des Vosges and make our way up . Shops are getting interesting , more eclectic¬† not that we would buy one of those shirts for our husbands but patterns , bow ties and old fashioned men’s underwear seams to be the new hype ! IMG_3199 (Large)IMG_3200 (Large)

Made in France is also a big trend ! There is a “carte Francaise” that link all the small businesses who pledge to make everything in France to support french craftsmanship and old manufactures on the verge of closing . I will support France’s underwear industry and will buy a very well made old fashioned “slip” for my Valentine …after all why not ?!

Even the packaging is really well made ! But are American men ready to spend $40 for a brief to have ” La classe ” even under their jeans¬† ??

https://www.leslipfrancais.ch/fr/nouvelle-collection-401

Cute window ! Daddy Chick Mommy Chick¬† Mini Chick …

IMG_3246 (Large)Just 5 mns away from the newly re opened  Picasso Museum is Breizh Cafe  . Whether you want a traditional crepe , galette or try one of their creative take on a crepe ( this Breton French man is married to a Japanese women and they had this idea of crepes like sushi rolls ) No matter what , the products are authentic and I think  a great place to have a crepe in Paris either French or Japanese way   https://breizhcafe.com/fr/la-crepe-autrement-crepes-galettes-bretonnes-creperie-paris-saint-malo-cancale-tokyo/.

Slowly but surely we are moving into the Haut Marais and you can tell . La rue du Pont aux Choux is where hip is starting to take shape . All the sudden you have an “appointment only ” showroom ;¬† “Heureux les Curieux” a concept gallery that represent a new designer or artist every month¬†¬† http://www.heureuxlescurieux.com/¬† We miss the Made in France expo by a week but there is always something unique to see. Next door is an old shoe shop ” Cordonnerie” transformed into a coffee shop , a “Boulangerie” now a secret Boutique Hotel¬† also designed by Christian Lacroix as the matter of fact http://www.hotelpetitmoulinparis.com/en/ ¬† and also what looks like the hottest place to eat some fried chicken Japanese curry bowls just by checking out the line of hipsters waiting … https://www.timeout.com/paris/en/restaurants/pontochoux

IMG_3249 (Edited) (Large)IMG_3204 (Large)Merci is THE concept store that started it all , where trends have been made , where you see what’s in now , what’s cool . Despite having diluted the concept and becoming a bit more commercial due to its success , it remains a must go to .IMG_0831 (Large)IMG_3211 (Large)

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IMG_3222 (Large)IMG_3226 (Large)My dream coffee shop ~ library

IMG_3210 (Edited) (Large)Recommended by the locals we keep walking north and encounter more professional showrooms where new up and coming designers are looking at making it in Paris fashion scene . IMG_3247 (Large)But what made the Haut Marais a cultural destination is “le Carreau du Temple”. Once a¬† semi-abandoned 19th-century covered market has now found new life as a beautifully redesigned center for exhibitions, performances, sports, exercise, eating, drinking, and people-watching ! And it just happened that there is a fashion show about to open …watching people waiting to attend the event is just as much fun as visiting the hall itself but I am too shy to take photos even though they all look editorial ready ! IMG_3242 (Large)IMG_3241 (Large)We figured out how to find a very coveted clean public bathroom without having to drink more or eat more … Public Administration Buildings ! City Hall , Libraries all have really nice ones and nobody goes there . We stop at the corner library which also offered a nice respite for our tired feet .IMG_3256 (Large)Now we are on the hunt for one more specialty shop …a notion store because we both love to sew and get into craft projects of all kinds . Google shows one so we decide to give it a shot even though it had to take us back near the Opera . We sure did not regret… what a find !! Ultramod opened up here in 1832 and not much has changed . We are like kids in a candy shop but only have 15mns before they are closing for the day …IMG_3259 (Large)IMG_3267 (Large)

Actually there are 2 shops on each side of the street , the 2nd is all about hat making !

IMG_3263 (Large)IMG_3264 (Large)IMG_3260 (Large)Here is a link to an article with the whole story about this piece of France Fashion history . https://www.rebeccadevaney.ie/blog/2019/6/3/ultramod-the-oldest-haberdashery-in-paris IMG_3270 (Large)Galerie Vivienne is a covered street or “passage” like you find all over Paris . This is one of the prettiest with cute shops like Mad Et Len selling my ultimate favorite pot pourri if you like deep earthy scents .IMG_3271 (Large)

IMG_3273 (Large)You probably know of the Jardin du Palais Royal right by Le Louvre Museum because of its “Instagrammable” striped columns courtyard . Yes this is the way some people travel …in search of Instagram spots !!¬† I always walked through the Jardin¬† not the covered alley surrounding the garden but at night only the Gallerie is open to foot traffic witch led to more discoveries . This is where the famous perfume creator Serge Lutens perfume house is …mysterious and enchanting …https://www.sergelutens.com/us/ IMG_3276 (Large)And next door a costume jewelry boutique IMG_3278 (Large)IMG_3277 (Large)It’s been one of those extra long and exciting day and as we make our walk back across the bridge we know there is more excitement to come with dinner at this little Bistro On L’ile St Louis …We eat in one of their sister restaurants the day before …but this one is a step up ! Normally we would have had to make a reservation , specially for a Friday night , but the transportation strikes have hit restaurants hard …people just try to get back home somehow and eating out is not on the schedule . Tonight we will eat at “Les Fous de l’Ile ” IMG_3358 (Large)Bistronomy is an etymological blend of ‚Äúbistro‚ÄĚ and ‚Äúgastronomy‚Ä̬† , a new breed of bistros run by creative young chefs with formidable haute cuisine training¬† serving quality food at gentle prices instead of reaching for Michelin stars. Tonight will be all this and more . A casual cozy setting , tight seating so you can start conversation with the eater next to you ,wonderful food for an unbeatable price compare to anyplace in San Diego . For the 2 of us , the bill came up to 66E tax and tip included¬† , that is barely $75 US . OK we did not drink wine just bottled water but still…I would drive miles for the same meal here !

https://www.lesfousdelile.com/en/

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Ossau Irati sheep milk cheese with citrus cream, shaved persimon and tangerine

Dessert was incredible as well !

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Made to order Napoleon with home made ice cream

The place is filled with locals and our only wish is to eat tomorrow at their other sister restaurant just a 10mns walk from our hotel too . Le Christine is more Gastro than Bistro , a casual elegant place witch 3 course menu will cost you 46E /$50¬† taxes and tip included¬† Still a Steal !¬† https://www.restaurantlechristine.com/en/¬† Eating in Paris has been surprisingly reasonable if you avoid the tourist traps or tourist places in general …ask your hotel always and people in surrounding shops , they know best !

Tomorrow is a big day . We are going to Maison & Objet , one of the largest and most influential home and gift show in Europe …but this will be an other post on its own !

Merci for reading ! Until next post please Stay Safe and Stay Home !

Philarmonie de Paris and Saint Germain

To all of you who take the time to read my blog I wanted to thank you for doing so .¬†¬† I enjoy sharing our culture , our experiences , a bit of France with you . The hardest part for me is always to find the time to do it….and then overnight , here we are , confined at home with all the time in the world …Pascal and I are very fortunate to be able to take this pause and try to make the best of it . Is this a preview of what retirement could feel like ?? We love having this time for us , time to rest , to connect with friends in France via video chats , repaint the shop …but we realize that for many it will be a period of stress , pain ,¬† financial struggle so we will keep bringing you some happy images to brighten your day during this time of turmoil .¬†¬†¬† Stay Safe¬†¬† Stay Healthy¬† Stay Home please .

Philarmonie de Paris and Saint Germain :

I always look for special installations when going to a big city …I got to see¬† some fabulous photo exhibitions : Richard Avedon in New York , Helmut Newton at the Grand Palais¬† and¬† these have made lasting memories . So going to Paris I was hoping for something special again . L’atelier des lumieres ( the Parisian version of the Carrieres de Lumieres we have in Les Baux de Provence ) was closed in January to prepare its new show . This is always fabulous and I would recommend you to see it¬†¬† https://www.atelier-lumieres.com/ or even better in the quarries of Les Baux .¬† https://www.carrieres-lumieres.com/en/whats-on

The Cit√© de la Musique “City of Music” known as Philharmonie is a group of institutions dedicated to music and situated on the outskirts of Paris . It consists of an amphitheater, a concert hall that can accommodate an audience of 800‚Äď1,000, a music museum containing an important collection of classical music instruments dating mainly from the fifteenth- to twentieth-century and a music library . The architecture itself is worth going and the exhibition they have now is right up my alley !IMG_0636 (Large)IMG_0632 (Large)IMG_0633 (Large)

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Next to the concert Hall is the Music Museum

The exhibition from Pierre et Gilles is designed as a musical and visual installation through an assembly of more than a hundred of their photo-paintings .¬† The 2 French artists have a vision that is unique to them . Since 1976 iconic musicians , singers or actors have come to their studio . Pierre takes the photo in a set they create , then Gilles paints over it ….all over it !¬† The final image float in between photo and painting in a bright color haze with crazy¬† frames they also make. I’ve been a fan since the mid 80’s and always thought these were collages, mixed media¬† when in fact it is all real props in a studio set up . What was so cool for me is that you would listen to the music from the artist photographed at that time . It gave a whole other dimension to this pop culture exhibition . IMG_0651 (Large)

Fashion Designer Jean Paul Gauthier and his boyfriend below :IMG_0653 (Large)IMG_0668 (Large)

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IMG_0688 (Large)IMG_0657 (Large)IMG_0687 (Large)Some of the props from their studioIMG_0660 (Large)IMG_0661 (Large)The exhibition is following us back to Paris IMG_3209 (Large)It took time and some help from the locals to figure out how to get back “intramuros” The line we took to come had closed until 4pm due to the strikes , the other we could take just 10mns away was not stopping to all stations right now and not going all the way to the left bank …a couple of hours later we were finally in St Germain ! We had missed lunch but thought there would be plenty of¬† temptations along the way…

Now is actually time to confess …that I delete ALL my photos from that day except for one I took with my phone .Why is the trash button next to the import button ? and why did it never asked if “I wanted to delete all 86 items” ? It only took 2 breaths to realize the check marks were not turning blue a usual when importing but just checked and all had vanished from the memory stick of my camera within 4 seconds . So now i will have to rely on my poor writing skills and a few photos that thankfully Alice took !

I always love St Germain . It has historical cafes , brasseries , bookstores as well as chic boutiques , designer shops big and small , Le Bon Marche department store , La Grande Epicerie de Paris , The Conran shop and many of my favorite patisseries from Pierre Herme to Angelina and Pierre Conticini’s Patisserie des Reves . But Pierre Herme fell short for me this time . His encyclopedia of pastries recipes is my bible but the shop felt corporate ,the half empty cases had pretty generic macarons …so we kept on going but we needed something to fuel up . Nothing better than a hot chocolate from Angelina . It is pretty small but I promise there is no way you can drink more . It is that rich , thick and creamy !¬† https://www.angelina-paris.fr/en/homeIMG_0705 (Large)I discovered Angelina when I was modeling for a couture line showing during Fashion Week at the Intercontinental Hotel rue de Rivoli ( now the Westin Vendome ) I did not care for macarons much and sure had to stay away from them at the time… that was until I tried the XL version from Angelina . It was the smoothest texture with¬† more ganache or creme au beurre, a real cake , decadent and addictive ! Now when I make macarons at home , I make them large as well …not to mention it is also easier to pipe IMG_0696 (Large)Wondering through Le Bon Marche in search for products for our shop …I was happy to see that we sell some of the Brands they carry¬† .

Their coffee shop had a real impressive table .

Wondering through the Conran Shop is always interesting .IMG_0700 (Large)A lot of my favorite shops have changed style, some have closed like Blanc d’Ivoire (we sold their quilts and beautiful candles for years) , Christian Tortu the famous florist had closed and La Patisserie des Reves had closed just a few weeks ago …Things are changing and evolving … you can never rely on your success and let your guard down … people move with the flow and you have to be able to bring it or stay behind where you may die . Out the blue we stumbled onto this new store : Des Gateaux et du pain . A breath of fresh air in this world of traditional pastries . We are tempted by every single cake and after much deliberation , we finally settle for this beautiful and delicious one combining pistachio and rose . It was as delicate in flavor as it looked¬† !¬† https://www.desgateauxetdupain.com/IMG_0801(Edited) (Large)We walked 25 000 steps with a matcha latte , 2 croissants for breakfast¬† , half a coke at noon to get some more caffeine , a hot chocolate at 4pm to warm us up as it is rainy and chilly … We are jet lagged , pretty drained and we need some dinner witch we found by accident along the way .¬† Across an Alain Ducasse restaurant ( serving¬† all things Alice will not dare to eat) Le Colvert is a tiny little bistro bustling with local patrons . We are happy to just seat down and enjoy some simple comfort food casseroles . The young couple who owns it also owns 2 other restaurants nearby .This one is the most basic , the others are bistronomie and gastro-bistro . We are intrigued and happy to think that we could have some real good food close by . Many of the places I wanted to go are way to far to walk to;¬† taxis and Uber are slammed and it takes twice longer to drive than walk with all the traffic ! https://lecolvertbistrot.com/

We crash in our comfy pad with pretty fantastic views . Paris will always be Paris !IMG_3372 (Large)IMG_3280 (Large)The next day will bring a lot more fun and exciting discoveries as we spent the whole day in Le Marais and Haut Marais , the SoHo of Paris , the brewing area for new designers, small brands and shops , trend setters …we’ll have the best meal of the trip and I have ALL the photos !! Next post will have more visual and less talking so I hope you will stay tuned .

 

Heat wave in Provence

Summers in Provence are the best ! Most people fear that it will be packed with tourists and avoid that season … And yes the coast is crowded specially in August but let me tell you why you should rethink about it :

The¬† lavender is in bloom , the countryside is finally alive and buzzing with activities ! There are Festivals everywhere , flea markets , “vide grenier” , “Fete votive ” , the roman theater of Orange plays operas from mid July to mid August , the roman arena in Nimes has concerts , the entire town of Arles put on the largest photo exhibition of the country , my own home town host a popular ” rose wine ” celebration …there is something for everyone !

And yes it can be hot too … but it is a dry heat ( not dry as desert dry but enough to be more comfortable ) It makes finding a river to swim a fabulous excursion ,¬† floating under the roman aqueduct of the ” Pont du Gard ” a much more special visit to this¬† site , visiting the year round cool quarries “Carrieres de Lumieres ” wonderful ….not¬† even mentioning¬† taking an afternoon nap ! Daylight last for ever and everybody enjoy being out late when the temperature is just perfect for that strappy summer¬† dress I can never wear here in California¬† !¬† If you are done with May gray – June gloom that linger until late August …head to Europe for a real summer time !

This year we decided to stop over in L’Isle sur la Sorgue on our way from Marseille Airport …immerse ourselves in this wonderful¬† ” Venise Provencale ” and all its antique shops and Sunday flea market . IMG_2404 (Large)The flea market starts at dawn along the Sorgue river…

By the time we get there , the bustle is over and the merchants are waiting for clients , playing games while their bottle of rose stays cool in the river …It’s like a Pagnol movie !

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Art is everywhere !IMG_2415 (Large)

Antique installations in every shop …

Cafe nested in a small courtyard if you need to rest before to discover some more …IMG_2374 (Large)IMG_2376 (Large)

We need a break too … Le Jardin du Quai is just across the road and its garden looks very inviting !

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Refreshed and rested we go for more !

IMG_2381 (Large)IMG_2382 (Large)Some real traditional antiques from Provence are being rare these days …the owner of that booth told us closing down at the end of the season …IMG_2377 (Large)People search for industrial or mid century not XVIII century old furniture as much IMG_2371 (Large)IMG_2373 (Large)IMG_2367 (Large)Even found a Jardin public / “skate park”¬† ??

The heat wave even made the news all the way here in the US … we hit 43C / 110F witch even I have to agree is really hot when you do not have AC anywhere ….even in your car ! So we took off at sunrise for the most beautiful drive just outside of my home town of Sainte Cecile les Vignes . IMG_5504 (Large)Hard to believe that you just pass the exit sign and this is it … beautiful rolling hills !

IMG_5509 (Large)The good side of driving an old beetle is that we have less chances to go over the speed limit of 49mph on highways …or this is what you could end up driving !

The Tour de France went right by these roads this year …leave vaison la Romaine and keep going on the higher hills where the lavender grows.IMG_5514 (Large)One last turn and here it is ! IMG_5516 (Large)IMG_5515 (Large)White butterflies were all over the lavender in the early morning hours IMG_5518 (Large)IMG_5520 (Large)We grew up here but this scenery never cease to amaze us

On the way back we stopped in Nyons where the farmer’s market is going on on Thursdays …pick up some of our summer favorites : salade de museau ( cheeks in gelatine , sliced super fine ) fromage de tete ( head pate ) and maybe a slice of terrine de campagne …forget about the same ol same ol tomato mozzarella or prosciutto and melon that we can get back home ! We crave for these classic basic appetizers that are complete¬† delicasy for us . We always wonder how come NOBODY make some in the US

Then a quick stop to say to a friend who runs his parents Citroen garage…in the back there is always a bunch of real French cars !! IMG_5428 (Large)My favorite : Ami 6 …the perfect car for the area IMG_5422 (Large)Pascal’s father or his brother sold that one at the time !

Probably the best option to bet the summer heat

But today is our 27th wedding anniversary and we are going out to dinner …no way I am cooking with this heat anyway ! Pascal has booked at Maison Prevot¬† in Cavaillon the city of the famous melon¬† . The owner and chef Jean Jacques Prevot has a seasonal menu highlighting the fruit of his town so we are going to have some melon …just not with prosciutto ūüėČ IMG_5497 (Large)

IMG_5485 (Large)Warm melon filled with a bouillabaisse soup of maine lobster and melon balls …light and delicious !IMG_5487 (Large)They have AC …in case you really missed it …and I froze in my summer strappy dress !

I don’t think I ever posted a photo of my mum’s house …here we are in front of it …aka our “chateau” because it is so big and needs a lot like most chateaux ūüėČ

What is an other wonder to us is how good the food is EVERYWHERE and how wonderful it is to get there ! Just hop in your car and enjoy a wonderful 15mns drive on scenic roads …no traffic , no problem to park … a little stroll in the village of Seguret and we are set for an other wonderful dinner …with a view ! IMG_2444 (Large)IMG_2445 (Large)People cooling off at the fountain IMG_2446 (Large)IMG_2447 (Large)IMG_2452 (Large)IMG_5409 (Large)

 

 

 

The Pyrenees and the Basque region

We bought this book to sell at the shop even though it was about¬† Spanish Basque recipes and not French Basque recipes …. I started reading it and then it began¬† … ¬† ¬† ¬†¬† We had to go !! We needed to see if it was as good as it looked !

IMG_0802 - Copy (Large)We decided that we needed to compare both regions , so we would drive from Provence along the Pyrenees on the French side all the way to the Atlantic coast , then cross into Spain and come back on the Spanish side . One week ,1400miles ,¬† no freeways , a dozen ” Tour de France ” Mountain passes per day , bucolic picnic sites , a whole lot of scenic roads and tones of beautiful photos that I have to share to hopefully inspire you . Summer is just around the corner and it is time to plan that next trip to Europe !