Tag Archives: france

A night at the Le Bristol

A stay at the historic Le Bristol Hotel Paris.

I was so thrilled last week to attend the book launch of fashion illustrator Megan Hess at the Le Bristol Hotel in the heart of Paris. Her new book “New York through the Fashion Eye” was a wonderful walk down memory lane for me with all the sparkle and glamour that makes New York the fashion capital it is. Flipping through the book brought back a rush of memories and made me, for a moment, homesick for the city that had become my adopted hometown.  Even as I spend this extended time in France, I do still feel like a New Yorker and this book was a reminder of all the beauty she bestows.

The fashionable event was held at the historic Le Bristol Paris, a five star luxury hotel in operation since 1925 and is one of my absolute favorite Parisian hotels. The hotel is part of the Oetker Collection which has announced the Australian born illustrator as their ongoing artist in residence and will be traveling the world to all Oetker properties creating exclusive fashion and lifestyle illustrations for the luxury brand.

After the event I checked into my room on the 8th floor. Always breathtaking, the Le Bristol is classically French from the linens and drapes to the Louis XV and Louis XVI furniture and of course, the Eiffel Tower views her windows gaze out upon. What The Carlyle Hotel is to New York, the Le Bristol is to Paris…. that perfectly Parisian dream.

A stay at the historic Le Bristol Hotel Paris. A stay at the historic Le Bristol Hotel Paris. A stay at the historic Le Bristol Hotel Paris. (more…)

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On Learning French…

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One of the first questions everyone asked me when I told them I was going to France for an extended stay was, “Do you speak French?” My reply: “Non.”

When I was growing up in Texas and it came time to learn a second language I declared I would be taking French, to which my parent’s reply was “no, you’re taking Spanish. You live in Texas, after all.” But in my mind, I wasn’t going to stay in Texas and wherever that life was taking me I was sure it would have much to do with Paris. I lost that battle and I regret not fighting back harder for what I wanted now, while reflecting back from a small French village where 90% of the population only speaks the local vernacular.

I took private lessons (if you are in NYC and want my tutor’s info, email me. He was fabulous!) before arriving which was barely enough to make me appear to be not a total idiot. Perhaps the most important thing he taught me was Je suis désolée… I am sorry. I think a lot of people would be terrified to live in a country where they can’t communicate but this sort of thing doesn’t bother me, it’s part of it. It’s part of the opening yourself up to new experiences and putting yourself in unfamiliar situations to test your character on how to survive each day and make it the best it can be.

When I arrived at my little apartment in the south there was an old stack of books on the fireplace mantel, faded from the sunlight streaming in the window on those gloriously quiet afternoons and dusty from years of idle use. Sitting there, just the size of my palm, was an old french language handbook from the late 1960’s. I sat in the sunlight that afternoon practicing the unchanged phrases of French culture and wondering as I felt the texture of the old thin paper between my fingers, what wary travelers had held this book in their hands and fumbled through the phrases as I am today. I imagine them filled with hope that each line of expression will unlock another door in my journey through this foreign land. Where did this book, stuffed into a back pocket, take them and who will possess it after me? What is it that brings us all here, to France, weaving an invisible thread between us?

I have for most of my life been an incredibly social person. My mother always called me a social butterfly. Living in a place with no one to talk to was a release of an invisible social responsibility I had given myself. I don’t know anyone and I can’t really know anyone. There are no parties to go to, no friends to call upon to meet up for drinks. I can’t check in with the neighbors or commit myself to random photoshoots.

It was a relief.

Taking socializing off the table opened up so much time for myself to focus on other things, and to think about photography. It was in a sense a freedom from obligation and made me feel invisible. When you are invisible you are free from the definition you have created for yourself, or has been created for you, and can become a truer form of what you are destined to be.

As the days have turned into weeks people have begun to recognize my face around town. I keep a pretty set routine. I go to the patisserie first thing each day for my baguette. Then to the café for my cafe créme. I buy my cheese at the market from the same man and my eggs from this adorable older couple. Then this marvelous thing started to happen. They each started trying to teach me words. Always with an expression of amusement they say it slowly to me, I repeat it back to them, they say it again back to me. I try to remember it the next time we meet. In these moments I feel what a 2 year old child must. My cheese monger taught me plus and minus, my little vegetable grocer taught me rosemary, the woman at the fromagerie taught me Bon Dimanche (Good Sunday), which is used around town starting Saturday afternoons. This past weekend the organic grocer emptied out my coin purse onto the counter and sat their teaching me how to count change in French. Connecting with another human though their kindness and patience of sharing their knowledge with me has been one of the most generous gifts I’ve received.

I can’t believe I could have possibly lived my life without ever knowing these human experiences, the freedom from myself and the beauty of kindness in others to want to help you learn and participate in this shared life with all walk through together.  Though for the most part I have no idea what these people in my little village are saying to me, I feel more a sense of community with them through their kindness toward me than I have ever felt before and the opening up of my brain as it makes room for new words.

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Buly 1803

A reivew of the luxurious french beauty brand Buly 1803.

Every time I have come to France there is always an excitement to go explore the pharmacies here. Unlike in the states where that basically means a medicine counter, here the pharmacy is where you can not only find any cure for what ails you, but a whole pandora’s box of new French beauty products we are not familiar with in the states or possibly do not even have back home.  But then I discovered something new in Paris… something truly magical:

Buly 1803.

Like a pharmacy fit for a French King, it is the fantasy of what Paris used to be. Feeding my complete obsession with natural beauty products this place became instantly beloved.

When your modern day shoes walk across the crest marked tiled floors of their petite atelier on Rue Bonaparte in the sixth arrondissement you are immediately filled with wonderment as you gracefully float back in time to an era of beauty products that were made from real ingredients. Walls of oak cabinets filled like an apothecary of everything you ever needed and some you didn’t even know existed. Marble candles, essential oils, the most beautiful watercolor painted ceramic bottles of water-based perfumes and soaps, all made in the tradition of nineteenth-century craftsmanship.

Originally named after its creator and famed perfumer, Jean-Vincent Bully, today’s rebirth brought back to life by Ramdane Touhami and his wife Victoire de Taillac-Touhami, named Buly 1803, was named after the year Jean-Vincent Bully first opened his shop in Paris“with a respect for the past and a curiosity for the present.”

Though they are most known for their perfumes past and present, I gravitated to the Huile Antique damask rose scented dry body oil. After stepping out of my shower or bath, this is the most wonderful body oil I have ever experienced. Instead of leaving you oily it absorbs into your skin making it soft and luminous with a subtle scent of roses. I am 100% hooked on this product.

My second discovery was not one I was anticipating. Over a glass counter there was a mirage of antique looking little jars of oils. I discussed with the shopgirl the characteristics of my facial skin and I told her that I had a mild rosacea that drove me insane, especially considering I typically try not to wear makeup and I want my skin to be as balanced as possible to feel confident naked. She suggested I try the Safflower Seed Oil and at only 26 euros I was happy to. I’ve been using it now before bed and in the morning for almost two weeks and the redness in my skin has never been so calm! It’s so simple and so much cheaper than the unnatural laser procedure my dermatologist suggested.

Perhaps the most charming characteristic of this very small shop is the old desk that rests demurely by the soft window light where sits a calligrapher to customize your purchase with your name or monogram. If you are looking for a truly unique experience and very Parisian gift for yourself or to bring back to someone, I highly recommend taking a step back in time here.

Images from this story were taken in my home in Provence. 

A reivew of the luxurious french beauty brand Buly 1803. (more…)

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Studied.

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I was watching the U.S. Presidential debate live last night, in bed with a glass of red wine, around 4am French time. As I listened to Hillary Clinton speak (looking chic as F in Ralph Lauren, IMO) I was so impressed with how knowledgable and studied she is. Dedicating your life to anything, especially in her case of public service for 30 years, is a huge statement to passion, purpose and incredible knowledge on the subject. I was contemplating how that related to my own purpose.

Change makers start by first learning, then with doing. The power is in knowledge. The expertise is in experience. That’s what I took away. If you have been following my Snapchat this week I have been sharing what I’ve learned about photography. Quick little daily tutorials on knowledge I’ve gained either in the class room or from experience in my breathe thus far as a photographer which is and will be my life’s work.

On Photography

My journey started when I was 13. My mom handed me her 1970s Pentax 35mm film camera. The kind that is so basic and manual all you can do set the shutter and aperture. A far cry from the endless options and controls we now have with digital.

My first lessons in photography started with basic balancing of the camera’s built in light meter and a LOT of trial and error. I learned quickly that I like to overexpose my images by a stop, especially when shooting faces. I learned how slow I can set the shutter before the image begins to reveal the shake from my hand, or breathing. I learned how to communicate movement, not just freeze it. This is knowledge I still use today when I want the image to feel alive. From there I read books, I took every class I could for the next 10 or so years. Post college, I still study. I watch youtube videos, I take classes in alternative photography, I buy random cameras and learn how to shoot with them. I play, experiment, challenge myself and discuss daily.

The Continued Study

I’ve studied photography. I loved photography. I still love the history of photography, btw THIS is the best podcast on the subject. We are now all photographers. We all take pictures, communicate through imagery and share with the world. For those of you who want to make it a profession… take a lead from what inspired me about Hillary. Be studied, do the work. Take your time on the journey. Here I am 20 years later and I am still doing just that. She makes me excited for who I will become as an artist (and business woman) in the later years of my life.

Please, this is not a political post but one about being inspired about another human’s knowledge and commitment to what they belive in, if you belive in it with them or not… #ImWithHer

Above self portrait, in Baukjen dress & wrap coat,

inspired from the painting “San Gerolamo” by Caravaggio

 



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