Home Sweet Home

Almost three months since we made it back to France ! Where do I start ?

Well, I intended to post once a month with all the updates of our new life here for all of you who do not follow us on Social Medias but it’s been a real whirlwind figuratively and literately. The Mistral greeted us in Marseille and stayed with us for the first three weeks straight which kept the sky bright blue just like in San Diego .Yes it was cold, freezing temperatures felt like 22F with the windshield but we were prepared for that and to be honest didn’t mind so much because of the bright light and dry air. Surprisingly I haven’t had a sore throat here when I have them all the time in San Diego.

The sweet scent of fresh Mimosa made the house feel like home and the chaos of the first few days melted away…Coming back to a house that has been closed for two years is a challenge but this time around we had heat AND hot water not like January 2020 if you have read the posts about that last trip. So all was fine but the fridge who died a couple of months before with all the freezer content and was thankfully evacuated by my cousin before we arrived.

With the freezing temperatures, the tiny window by the kitchen sink worked as our fridge for the first week. We lived like in the old days , buying what we needed as we needed it. Walking to the farmer’s market and bakery . This is what we had been dreaming about…no more 20 minutes drive to get a good croissant at the French Oven in Scripps Ranch ! The local little supermarket ,the size of a Trader Joes still amazes us by the selection. All this made our daily life much easier despite not having a refrigerator !

My mom’s old car started, we greased the garage door and off we went to the next town where everything is ….we needed a cell phone plan and internet to communicate. As we drove through the countryside we watched a beautiful sunset down on the vineyards. This will be the new normal …

We had gotten our wifi box and needed to prepare before the technician came to hook us up to the fiber which meant drill a hole for the cable. I think a photo will say a thousand words !

Coming into a house absolutely full of my parents things , as well as what we had left before to move , plus my grand parents treasures and junk has its down sides. We have been non stop sorting , cleaning, giving, donating, recycling and trashing 6 to 7 days a week . Our move was set to leave Long Beach on January 7th and arrive in Marseille March 4th . With 6 weeks to go we needed to make room ! Then delays started happening, boat left end of January with new estimated date of arrival for March 12th , then 19 , 23 and as today March 30th we still haven’t received it . That’s when we appreciated arriving in a full house which we can live in. We camp a little but it is comfortable and having more time to get ready was very welcome …a little time to take a breather , do something fun for us , drive around , see some friends , go for hike , research for appliances, bath fixtures, tiles and get Covid the day the container was planned to be delivered . Sometimes I think my mom is watching over us … So as I watch over Pascal and am quarantining, I have time to sit down and write a little …

It is not “Escape to the Chateau” if you have watched that British TV series but “Going back Home” for us. No, my family home is not a Chateau even though it is probably even older than the one in the TV show . It is a Mas de village, a large house where silk worms were raised in the attic at the time . Then my grand parents made it a garage and the facade still bare my name.

No there is no romantic view of rolling hills with lavender fields but this is where I was born and grew up and we will make it work. I have been soaking in all the impressions of these first few days as i am rediscovering my childhood home …here in my bedroom just above my dad’s mechanic shop.

Life as it went down the first months looked like this …

Winter Sunday drive above Nyons where there is no more Mistral !

Opening up the door to the attic …

Lavender field in winter

Back to cleaning up…

And finding my mother’s earrings and dad’s cufflinks in the most unlikely place was unbelievable

Because they went thru wars, our grand parents and parents never trashed anything…plus there were no recycling center or large trash collection like we have now.

When you have to go to Nimes in search of doors and bath fixture….

Love my local flower shop

It starts to feel like spring here too !

Sometimes the most simple things are the best …that ham is seriously The best ! Love my butcher and produce shop across the street !

Le Mont Ventoux from Le Crestet near Vaison la Romaine

Wild violets under a chestnut tree

Lunch with friends in Aix en Provence at Le Grillon

Farmer’s Market beauties

Our door to the garden

Street fair food ! A chichi ( pronounce She-She ) is a French style doughnut , just better 😉 I am a super happy girl !

At the city hall to apply for our French ID card …no more visas, no more immigration paperwork…Going back home is so much easier ! I had a little bit of apprehension, leaving our beautiful life in Southern California, but coming back is just natural, comfortable like I had not though possible…But what makes it so special is that we had left this life so now we appreciate everything like we would never have if we had stayed …

Enjoying Cinema as an Art not just as entertainment .

We loved and enjoyed every minute of our life in San Diego but small village lifestyle is wonderful !

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 😉

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 “obitoki” 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  “The brand’s 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 Mâle 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 ?!