I love discovering. It is the reason I left home, the endless joy I found in New York, then again, why I left it to discover something new in France. When I woke up at Le Mas de Peint I had no idea where to set out for lunch that day. By chance, a French friend messaged me and said, “go to La Chassagnette, you will not regret it.” Without a reservation, which is a big no-no in Provence, I showed up at noon and was pleasantly surprised to discover the most incredible secret garden dining in the Camargue.
I literally knew nothing about the space, almost missing the humble sign for the turn off on the road. However, once I walked over the little wooden creek bridge into the world of La Chassagnette I knew this was something special. The host invited me to discover their garden, baskets of herbs, fruits, vegetables, aromatics, roses, and some flowers I had never seen before set in an endless view of farm land. All grown by organic standards, he informed me most of what I would be eating for lunch came from right here, what was picked this morning. A chef who lets the taste of nature be the star.
The setting was beautiful, just as beautiful as the edible art pieces that arrived on our plate. A reinterpretation of natural beauty. There was much to discover, flavors I have never tasted, flowers I had never before eaten.
I love this quote from their website about Armand Arnal the restaurant’s chef, “La Chassagnette seems to him an oasis which is self-sufficient and for which there is no concept to develop, except that of respecting its authenticity. ” Sounds like heaven, right?
Tip- try the sparkling sake!
A child of the 90s I grew up with this fantasy of Paris I found in movies. The hotel suite that perfectly frames the Eiffel Tower in its windows, bouquets of flowers and white walled gardens where fluffy white cats come to lay in the sun before evenings in little chic black dresses and dinners where each course comes with a wine pairing. I found that glamorous Paris I so long ago dreamed about at Le Bristol Hotel.
I have been lucky enough to find myself in Paris quite often, and from time to time I can be caught in a daydream of what it would be like to live in this city that captures my soul. When I come to Paris I mostly just take my camera and walk. Walk for days. It never gets old to me, I never run out of things to photograph or be inspired by. Never, not even when I stayed in the most lovely apartment, have I desired to “stay in”… that is until I stayed at the Le Bristol. Already as I write this at Charles De Gaulle airport the memory of our suite feels more like lying half awake in a garden day dreaming all afternoon.
There is not a single detail of this hotel, which opened in 1925 in the heart of Paris’s fashion district, that isn’t wonderfully glamorous and idyllically French. From the dazzling array of chandeliers to the 18th century Toile de Jouy decor, it is unapologetically luxurious. It’s no wonder it attracts the stylish clientele to match from movie stars to entertainers and (to my pleasure) fashion photographers. It even had a place in Woody Allen’s movie Midnight in Paris.
During World War II the Hotel Le Bristol became the American Embassy and even harbored a Jewish architect who would later design the stunning glass and wrought-iron elevator I described as what it must feel like to travel inside a diamond.
Of course they have a beautiful spa, wonderfully opulent bars and restaurants tucked here and there around the hotel corridors, but it was what we discovered on the 6th floor that really took our breath away. A pool designed in the likeness of a large sailboat as imagined by Professor Pinnau, who most notably designed the yachts for the Onassis family, wrapped in walls of windows with sweeping views of Paris and most beautifully, Sacre Coeur. While the pool was a popular spot in the afternoons, it was early in the morning alone with the sunrise I found it to be one of the most peaceful places in Paris.
But perhaps the most surprising feature of this incredible hotel are the two fluffy white cats that live amongst the marble and roses. There is nothing more charming than having afternoon tea in the hotel’s garden with company of a furry little friend at your feet.
90 years after her opening here she stands, a lovely as ever….
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