Reflecting on Paris

I’ve come to the realization that a trip to Paris is better than a jaunt to the world’s premier wellness retreat. All that is good for the soul—exercise, food, and conversation—came organically there. My apartment was on the 5th floor, what Americans would call the 6th. The lift would often get stuck; it made no difference whether a resident was inside. Taking the stairs was the safer option. In the beginning, I had to pause several times during the ascent, but eventually, I became accustomed to the climb and could make it to my door without stopping. This achievement gave me a sense of accomplishment. As did climbing the steps in the Paris Métro without becoming winded.

While conquering various Stairmasters gave me a sense of pride, I probably got most of my exercise through the French art of flâneur, which means to wander aimlessly. When leaving the apartment, I permitted myself to make detours en route to and returning from my destination. I discovered a few shops in and adjacent to my arrondissement this way. One of them being my local Pierre Hermé. For the record, Ladurée is the better of the two, but I wouldn’t have discovered this if I hadn’t stumbled upon 89 Bd Malesherbes after dinner one night.

My knowledge of French enabled me to engage with Francophones. These interactions mainly took place while ordering food and buying tickets for museums and other sites of note. My husband went to Paris with me, and speaking French for two people was a heavy lift. Successful, but heavy. The the first time we went to La Ripaille (69 Rue des Dames), we didn’t have a reservation. I knew this would make the conversation with the front-of-house staff more complicated. I prepared for the exchange by practicing “Est-ce que vous avez une table pour deux personnes?” and “Nous n’avons pas de réservation.” We were met by Philippe, the proprietor, who explained that his place was full but that a table may become available later in the evening. I said that we’d return another time, and two nights later we did.

The next day, we entered the restaurant, and Philippe greeted us warmly. After bonsoirs, I told him that we had a reservation and the time that it was made for. We were shown to a cozy table for two. The dishes were written in chalk on blackboards hung high on the opposite wall. Philippe informed me of the changes that had been made to the menu. I relayed all the information to my husband in English. If you book a table for dinner at a restaurant in France, it’s yours for the night. We witnessed the departure of other parties one by one and eventually settled into a long conversation with Philippe. I thanked him for the delicious and nourishing food. (Lunch and dinner in France are eaten in courses; you must do the same when there.) I told him how the food in America makes us ill and how living in France would be ideal for health reasons. We discussed other American peculiarities and laughed about how vieil, vieille, le veau, je vois, and la voix could be confusing for language learners. He complimented me on my French. I told him that I was fearless and that I had put in a lot of work. Our party was one of the last to leave. Besides the conversations I had with my Chanel fashion advisors, this was the longest time I’d spent speaking continuously in French during the trip.

The food in France is generally fresh, free of preservatives, and not overly sweet. I dined often and freely from the menus of the restaurants in and near my arrondissement. I even consumed dessert and bread without falling ill. Le Tourbillon, whose address in Paris recently closed, was one of our favorite places for dinner and mille-feuille. According to the website, diners will be able to find them at the restaurant L’abri Norrmand (47 rue de General De Gaulle, Gaillon) in September. It looks like a pilgrimage to Normandie is in order. Although, I don’t know if they’ll have mille-feuille.

Works Sighted: Palais Garnier // Saint James Galathee II // J.Crew Martie pant // Monoprix trench // Superga 2750 Cotu Classic Navy // Longchamp Le Pliage (small handbag)

French Revolution Paris Historic Walk: An Airbnb Experience

I first met Thierry Collegia in 2020. I’d embarked on an online tour of Paris and decided to attend the virtual Airbnb experience French Revolution Interactive Journey. A lovely married couple joined the host and me. They’d been to Paris somewhat recently and shared their vivid memories. I hadn’t been there since 2014 and couldn’t recall rich details like they could. I knew I would visit the Revolution-related sites Thierry transported us to via Zoom; I just didn’t know when.

Two years and a few months later, I attended French Revolution Paris Historic Walk. I joined the group in front of a bookshop in the Ier arrondissement. Thierry was outfitted with a microphone, small speaker, iPad, and trusty backpack. We greeted each other like old friends. The other attendees were surprised that we’d already met. I like when things come full circle. Judging by the Airbnb reviews, it is common for tourists to take multiple Parisology tours.

Although the experiences are geared toward tourists interested in history, others will find them beneficial. Any excuse to go for a walk in Paris is a good one. I saw the arcades of the Palais-Royal and the black and white colonnes de Buren for the first time. Le café Corazza, a former Jacobins meeting place, was a Manolo Blahnik. Inside, a slender customer modeled sparkly shoes. The group—there were about 11 of us—took a walk on Rue Saint-Honoré passed a handful of noteworthy brands: Castañer (#264), Maison Goyard (#233), Christian Louboutin (#400), and Longchamp (#404). The townhouse, turned hotel, that was once owned by the family of Adrienne de La Fayette stands at #211. Maximilien Robespierre’s former residence is located at #398.

In the middle of his story, Thierry assessed our tolerance for gore. I was reminded that the tour was about war and not window shopping. I told him that I was all in, and the others seemed ok with the decision I made for the group. We advanced to Place de la Concorde where Louis XVI, Marie Antoinette, and Robespierre were executed. I was immediately taken by the shiny golden plaque at the foot of the obelisk that pays homage to the king and queen.

Our two hours together came to an end. After a few photographs with the storyteller, the attendees said their goodbyes and left one family at a time until Thierry and I remained. We took some selfies in front of the obelisk to commemorate our first in-person meeting. Thierry departed to meet his next tour. I went to buy a new Longchamp. I knew we’d meet again; I just didn’t know when.

Veja Campo

I received my introduction to the French brand Veja in October 2018. I’d ordered two pairs (in 39 and 40) of the V-10 from Zappos. The high top rubbed uncomfortably against my ankle, and I returned them. I waited a few years before ordering a different style. In September 2022, I bought two pairs of the Campo in bronze and white, again from Zappos. They were stolen in transit. My third attempt at acquiring and keeping a pair of Vejas was successful. In March 2023, I purchased the Campo in white and black from the Veja store in the18eme and have been wearing them ever since.

Deciding between sizes 39 and 40 took at least an hour. My instep is on the higher side, and the 40 seemed accommodating in this regard. However, the length of my foot is closer to a 39, which is the size I ended up committing to. I loosened the laces to allow for a little more room.

The break-in period for this sneaker was long and uncomfortable—at least a month with consistent wear. Initially, the toebox rubbed against the top of my toes. After a day of walking, I was relieved to take them off. Eventually, the leather became supple and the sole pliable. I don’t have issues with the toebox now.

Veja sneakers are attractive. The V logo looks like it’s peeking above the rim of the sole—clever in my opinion. Known for its sustainable measures, the brand uses materials like bovine ChromeFree leather, Amazonian and recycled rubber, organic cotton, rice waste, and recycled polyester. The sneakers are manufactured in Brazil through fair trade partnerships

Although the Campo may not be comfortable enough for me to buy again, I’d be open to trying other Veja styles, some in the running category perhaps. It’s pronounced “veh-ja” by the way.

Works Sighted

Veja Campo (white/black)

Lola (1961): Cécile in Nantes

In Jacques Demy’s Lola (1961), single-mother Cécile (played by Anouk Aimée) balances life’s demands gracefully. She’s always rushing and asking people for the time. On a typical day, she picks her son up from school, tucks him into bed, and heads out the door for work. Known on the stage as Lola, Cécile performs nightly at a cabaret in Nantes.

The cabaret is a party with free-flowing Champagne, ribbons, and music, a playground for the American sailors passing through the port city. In her line of work, it’s common for male patrons to become emotionally attached, but Cécile’s heart is reserved for someone else, and she isn’t timid about making this fact known.

Cécile finds pleasure in being feminine: admiring her silky hair after it has been washed, applying lipstick in her signature color, accessorizing a sheath dress with just the right necklace and jacket. She doesn’t know her own strength when it comes to captivating men on and off the stage. Even if she did, she wouldn’t sacrifice her attractiveness. She adorns herself with makeup, jewelry, and clothing for her own enjoyment.

Works Sighted

shirt // top hat // necklace // coat // tumbler // book

silver ribbon // gold ribbon // Champagne // bodysuit // comb // lipstick // fedora // candles

comic // dictionary // heels // flowers // cake

satchel // trumpet // vinyl // suitcase

Huile Prodigieuse by Nuxe

Skincare products from the brand Nuxe are manufactured in Fougères, France. I found this out from a police officer while walking on Rue du Rocher. I’d just crossed the bridge where the street meets Rue de Madrid when he leaned out of the police car window. “Sahn Jahme,” he exclaimed. I’d bought two shirts from Saint James, and the navy shopping bag caught his eye.

He asked me if I’d ever visited the commune in Normandie of the same name. I told him that I hadn’t. He proudly informed me that his hometown of Fougères in Bretagne was better in comparison. The manufacturing of iconic products from Nuxe was one of the reasons he gave to support his argument. He asked me if I knew of Nuxe. “Oui !” I exclaimed—our hour-long conversation took place in French; he didn’t speak English.

“Fougères !” he’d say periodically in a resolute tone. My point of reference to the brand Nuxe was the popular Huile Prodigieuse I’d recently purchased. If the officer’s description of Fougères was anything like the multipurpose oil bottled there, I concluded that it was worth seeing.

Huile Prodigieuse is a dry oil, which means that it absorbs quickly into the skin and doesn’t leave behind an oily film. I’ve come to associate it with the act of beginning the day, specifically beginning the day in Paris. I’d pined over this product for at least a year before buying my first bottle from my pharmacy in the 17ème. Its scent is multidimensional; I’d describe it as a complex, subdued floral. The official description: orange blossom, magnolia, and vanilla.

This product has turned getting ready into a sensory ritual. I use Huile Prodigieuse daily but reach for the shimmering Huile Prodigieuse Or after a succession of cloudy days.

Work Sighted

Huile Prodigieuse; Huile Prodigieuse Or

A Day in Champagne With My Vintage Tour Company

I didn’t know my dream was to be driven around Champagne, but it has come true at last. My husband and I ventured out of Paris by train to Reims. We met our guides, Maëva and Léa of My Vintage Tour Company, a short distance from the cathedral that has seen the crowning of countless French kings. After introductions, the four of us piled into Jeannette, a sky-blue, vintage Renault 4L. The pearly gates of Veuve Clicquot, Pommery, and other famous houses dotted the route to the highway ramp. Within 20 minutes, we were among the vine-covered plots of la campagne.

Jeannette creaked as she rounded corners and switched gears. We stopped on top of a hill in Sacy to observe the vines up close and the Château de Sacy in the distance. Maëva, who established the tour company with her brother Romain in 2018, shared her extensive knowledge of the tedious Champagne-making process. Even vine growing is regimented.

At our next stop, an open field in Chamery, Maëva taught my husband how to open a bottle of Champagne with a saber, which he executed like a somm. Steps for sabrage success: (1) Remove the foil and turn the bottle so that the vertical seam is facing upward at a 45-degree angle; (2) Place the saber on the shoulder of the bottle; (3) Swipe the saber upward so that it comes into contact with the base of the rim (at the top of the neck). This motion requires swiftness and commitment, not a sharp blade. In this case, the saber was of the Laguiole variety, and the Champagne was Jean-Jacques Hyest Réserve Brut, which paired perfectly with Fossier rose biscuits.

Then, on to Rilly-la-Montagne to visit Champagne Michel Fagot, where we had the opportunity to see rows and rows of bottles in riddling racks, bottles piled high on palettes, outdated production equipment, a giant grape press, and Olivier Fagot, head of the estate. It was here, in the tasting room of chez Fagot, that we discovered our favorite Champagne to date, the 1999 vintage. If it’s in stock on a future visit, we’ll interpret that as a sign and purchase a bottle then.

After spending four hours with Maëva, Léa, and trusty Jeannette, the time came for us to part ways where we’d been retrieved in beautiful Reims. I would have welcomed more time in Champagne with our guides, but Paris called us home. Our introductory visit to Champagne exceeded expectations. My Vintage Tour Company offers a harvest tour and another that’s tailor-made. I see them in our future.