Tag: Paris

Treasure From Paris

“Adornment, what a science!” 
― Coco Chanel

It’s been a minute since our trip to Paris but I came home with a piece of treasure and a shop that needs to be shared.

First some background. I have discovered a deep and abiding love for costume jewelry that I can’t explain. Aesthetically, I love the delicate pieces that have been trending for a while; the barely there chains, discreet studs, airily pretty pieces that Cool Girls wear so effortlessly. And yet, in recent years, everything I have been personally drawn to has been brightly colored, oversized, loud, and just a bit wacky. Somewhere in my psyche is the soul of a supremely and gloriously gives-no-****s senior citizen who decorates her walker with rhinestones, holidays in places that her grandchildren consider “unsuitable,” revels in garish lipstick, and probably has disinherited all her relatives at some point.

It was at the start of this phase that I discovered the jewelry of Lea Stein, a French accessories artist famous for her plastic brooches in what have come to be considered some iconic shapes. My favorite design was her fox-shaped pin and I coveted one, while cursing the high prices that her pieces command for the genuine articles. I follow a number of sellers or traders in the antiques world, Etsy, and elsewhere specifically to keep an eye on what’s coming and going, with an eye to snagging a deal.

So, over the summer while walking down a gorgeous street, my spidey senses pinged unexpectedly. Out of the corner of my eye, some bright colors had flashed and once my brain had caught up, poor Jeff was nearly dragged across the street.

Meet Tiany Chambard on the Rue Jacob, a tiny but absolutely jam packed shop specializing in vintage costume jewelry. What had caught my attention was a display case in the window featuring an abundance of Lea Stein pieces.

I was ridiculous and failed utterly to take photos at the time of the discovery visit, but returned to at least capture the store front and give you a tantalizing hint as to what lies inside.


A wealth of goodness!

The shop carries outright kitsch to designer pieces and I could have gleefully spent hours in there–I fully intend to on my next trip to Paris–but on this visit, I was on a mission. Armed with Jeff’s laughing comment that if I found one I loved it could be my anniversary present, the lovely seller unlocked a cabinet filled with Stein goodness and allowed me to turn over each brooch until I found The One.

This was the only thing I bought in Paris this trip, and it’s been a long time since a purchase gave me this much pleasure. Come jacket season, this guy get the place of honor on my beloved 1950’s tweed.

Four Days in Paris Part 3

“I love Paris in the summer, when it sizzles.”
― Cole Porter

We couldn’t have had better weather for our Paris trip and in spite of liberal application of sunscreen, I still managed to burn my neck and shoulders. However, it was all in the cause of vintage hunting and I did come home with treasure, so I begrudge my extra dose of Vitamin D nothing.

This vintage shop sells by weight!
THIS gem is getting its own post so stand by.
I flirted shamelessly with some hand inked fashion prints from the 1910s on this street, but I’m pleased (re: pissed) to say that financial virtue won the day.
This is almost the closest we got to the Eiffel Tower this trip, and I don’t fee bad about that.
We were treated to an impromptu concert whilst at lunch on our last day.
Snail sighting!
So charming I might actually die from it. An overdose of loveliness.

Four Days in Paris Part 2

“If you are lucky enough to have lived in Paris as a young man, then wherever you go for the rest of your life, it stays with you, for Paris is a moveable feast.”
― Ernest Hemingway, A Moveable Feast

We had next to no agenda in Paris, except to enjoy the company of Caitlin and her darling husband Jose, see one museum, and eat as much French food as possible. I’m thrilled to say that by this account, our trip was a stunning success. I gained about a million pounds (all due to cream and butter, so zero regrets there), and I was so pleased to spend time with friends who are so generous not just with invitations, but with wisdom, humor, and GREAT stories.

On our second day, while Caitlin shopped til she dropped (go check out her blog for some of her posts on Paris fashion, where to shop, and general notes from the road–she’s on a full travel campaign this summer!), Jeff and I took in the Musee D’Orsay and wandered some streets for some beauty therapy.

Apparently Hemingway loved this place, so of course we had to wander by–for Jeff’s sake.

This place was a bar, wine shop, library, book store, and “literary salon” all in one, which is about the most French thing I’ve ever seen in my life!

Four Days in Paris Part 1

“Cities have sexes: London is a man, Paris a woman, and New York a well-adjusted transsexual.”
― Angela Carter

I’ve been putting these posts together for a while now, and the day I was going to post the first part of the story, there was another attack in Paris. The information of this us still being pieced together.

The city of light is a resilient old girl, just as London is a crusty old guy, and both are holding it together spectacularly. And yet. It does feel like there are people who want to rip it to shreds because it’s beautiful and (at it’s best) it an be seen as a symbol of people getting along in spite of forces trying to rip it apart. Sometimes failing miserably, but still trying.

There’s a reason people fall in love with Paris. It revels in beauty and thought and language, which is dangerous to the harsh and the narrow. It’s sumptuous and gauche and luxurious and wretched all at the same time. It wears its age and its history well, and it doesn’t seem to be ashamed of even its own darker moments. It’s easy to love and so I think it must be easy to hate too.

It’s not surprising to me that Paris is considered female or feminine in its language or its characterization. It’s not safe to be beautiful, disappointing, sexy, boring, interesting, complicated, conflicted, contrary, romanticized, fetishized, put on a pedestal, found lacking, found transcendent, loved, or hated. Paris is all of these things. I’m always glad when go and I’m sorrowed that I or other people have to second guess whether or not it’s safe to right now. We need her romance and charm and pleasure and sober history more than ever.

Weekend Links

“When good Americans die, they go to Paris.”
― Oscar Wilde

So, we went to Paris for a few days, and didn’t miss any news at all.

Just kidding! Because it’s 2017 and the pace of the spacetime continuum is on warp speed!

The UK had a general election that did not quite go according to the Prime Minister’s plan, and Mr. Comey testified before Congress on the investigations into Russian interference in the US election–sounding for all the world like a victim of sexual assault or pressure from the way the president behaved to the way people are trying to make the subsequent decisions of all involved Mr. Comey’s own fault. It’s been shocking. The US president continued to tweet up a storm (which, let’s be clear, is precisely what kicked off this whole mess with Mr. Comey in the first instance), leading to his own teammates delivering the weakest defense possible to explain away his actions: “He’s just new this this.” No shit, Mr. Speaker. That’s always been the problem, and in no way absolves him of the responsibility of catching the hell up with professional expectations.

At time of writing, the White House has canceled an anticipated state visit to the UK. Trust me, President Trump would go down like a lead balloon at the moment, following his outbursts in response to the London attacks. Current reports are that he doesn’t want to have to deal with prospective protests or negative coverage, the poor dear. Though let’s be clear, the UK government is far from having its ducks in a row at the moment! Nevertheless, it astonishes me how he continues to casually do damage to some of the most enduring relationships in Western democracy, and I continue to be dismayed by the failure of his own (supposedly constitutionally mad) party to check him. The fact that the most likely outcome of the Comey hearing is, at this moment, nothing at all is deeply disheartening.

But a break from that, ducklings! I’m feeling marvelously refreshed after our short holiday–posts coming as soon as I clean the house, do masses of laundry, shop for food, go the gym, try to meditate, and generally try to get our lives back into some semblance of working order. Stand by. Not sure for how long. Meanwhile, I’ve put together a delightful batch of links to make you feel prepped to take on the coming week, regardless of whether or not you are currently stuffed to the brim of delicious French food.

A diverse list of female medieval writers.

I loved–LOVED–the Amazons of Wonder Woman, both the fictional characters and the casting. Different sizes, shapes and colors. Some were teachers, some were fighters, some were senators, some were thin, some were highly muscled, and every last one of them was a badass. Where the hell do I enlist for the Claire Underwood battalion? The outpouring of love and appreciation from other women for this film has been a source of internet joy for me from the get go, but

In tragic nerd news, Adam West passed away. A writer I enjoy pays tribute here.

In heroic and joyous nerd news, the first Black Panther trailer came out!

This generator gave me quite a chuckle. My favorite thus far have been “Islamic Revolutionary Thatcherite” and Post-Colonial Anarcho-Communist.”


A fashion designer urges consumer to not buy anything this season. I see the appeal!


Album of the week: Ti Amo, by Phoenix 

London Snapshot

“If you’re going to be crazy, you have to get paid for it or else you’re going to be locked up.”
― Hunter S. Thompson

The dearth of posts is unfortunate but necessary, minions. I’m up to my neck in one of the heaviest work load weeks in recent memory. Things are good but busy and I’m quite looking forward to the weekend, since I’m pretty sure I have not left the flat in any substantial way since the last one. A writer’s life for me!

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Today’s snapshot is more of a PSA or plea than anything. Stop the tyranny of lovelocks! They’re collapsing bridges in Paris, it’s only a short time before their dastardly weight crosses the channel. Plus this is a construction site, probably not the best place to document your undying devotion. Just saying.

Art and A Sense of Proportion

“I dream my painting and I paint my dream.”
― Vincent van Gogh

It’s easy to feel overwhelmed in the Louvre, but I find it’s the proximity that really throws one off balance. For example, in one of the many French galleries hangs this self-portrait by the artist with a couple of his masterworks hinted at behind him.
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Of course, the you turn around in the gallery and on the opposite wall…
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Paris, you are spoilt!

A Night On The Seine and a Confession

“London is a riddle. Paris is an explanation.”
― G. K. Chesterson

On our first night in Paris after our meal, we wandered along the river at in the dark – one of the best ways to take in the city of lights. Couples were cuddling, friends were blowing lazy and very French streams of cigarette smoke, a few boys were making inappropriate comments to passing women and being rebuffed with perfect flicks of their eyebrows, and everything was bathed in soft gold light.
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Paris conflicts me. On the one hand, it’s stunningly beautiful. It’s colors of stone and slate are instantly recognizable the world over, and it wears both its age and good looks well. London, by comparison is certainly less romantic and elegant (Paris does have the advantage of not having been Blitzed in WWII, it must be said), and I think in many ways it’s less beautiful… but I still love London more.

Sometimes I feel like I’m not supposed to, like I’m obliged to adore Paris for the sophistication and je ne sais quoi that defines it over London’s rougher edges. But I don’t. I can’t help it. As much as I admire them and long for a touch of their style, I’m not a French girl at heart. I salute the Audrey Hepburns of the world, and will never stand in the way of a person who dreams of the Eiffel Tower, much less bash a genuine love of pastries and good dressing. Hell, hand over the pain au chocolat and wrap dresses! But as stunning as the Seine is at night, I’m afraid that in defiance of both convention and accepted popular taste, I say give me the Thames.
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I plan on coming back to Paris as often as I can, but the truth is that London got her hooks into me long ago and I doubt I’ll ever get them out again. And I don’t particularly want to. That quote at the top of the post is one of my favorites about the two cities, and in the end I much prefer the riddle!

Crepes and Lingua Franca

“In Paris they just simply opened their eyes and stared when we spoke to them in French! We never did succeed in making those idiots understand their own language.”
― Mark Twain, The Innocents Abroad

Once upon a time, I had pretty decent schoolgirl French capabilities. I studied it Middle and High School (with a one year break for Latin, which I had to give up when we moved to a godforsaken island in the Pacific ocean…not that I have any remaining linguistic bitterness or anything). I also took two additional years of it at university, after which I quit so I could take other time heavy courses like Art History of the Northern Renaissance (which I talked my way into without any other Art History credentials) and Comparative Literature of the Early 18th Century.

My nerdiness is well established, yes?

Anyway, I was proud of my French. I’ll be the first to admit that it wasn’t always technically strong, I never really learned how to study properly until my last couple of years at university and grammar was always difficult, but my usage was great. More than one teacher questioned in interviews how I could get only moderate scores on written exams while being able to speak it well. The answer was, I used it. For two summers I lived and interned at NATO in Brussels, which is a multilingual organization. I heard it all the time, I used it out and about in the city, I read it everywhere on signs. I learn best by doing and that’s been as true for languages as any other skill I’ve tried to acquire. Heck, I even picked up a bit of Flemish Dutch just by listening to it and getting subtitles on every TV program.

But after I quit French, I didn’t get the chance to practice it again except for an occasional film. It slid into disuse. Because my technical skills weren’t as well developed, I actually felt it slipping from my grasp over time. My accent (which had once been complimented by a Parisian waiter who initially mistook me for a native speaker, high praise) got clunky and awkward in my own ears, my mouth forgot how to form itself to produce the correct sounds.

As we were gearing up for Paris Jeff kept teasing about making me speak to strangers or order food for everyone, but the truth is I was terrified. I wanted to practice my lost language but the very idea seemed overwhelming. The first day and a half was hard. I could read the placards and exhibitions information at Versailles, but it took effort. I ordered my food in French but even then I winced at a couple of the errors I made. (For what it’s worth, I have found Parisians entirely thrilled to hear a tourist even attempting to speak French, it makes a nice change from preppy American students shouting, “Please speak English!” at them across counters. Which we saw a lot of.)

But something amazing happened on the Metro on day two. I’d spent the day listening hard (in the least creepy way possible) to conversations around me and suddenly, from one moment to the next, something clicked in my brain. An announcement came on over the PA…and I understood it. The fast jabber of talk around me still was hard to grasp, but I understood what the conversations were and how they were progressing. A lovely little old lady stopped us on the street to ask for directions and I was able to apologize, explain our tourist status, and exchange pleasantries without a hiccup.

We went for crepes to celebrate (not really, we were on our way for crepes anyway, but Francophone pride certainly added some je ne sais quoi to the whole affair) and I was able to order for both of us and have the briefest of conversations with the delightful proprietor.
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He’s the gentleman in the blue shirt, and I’m a fan. He’s a love!

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Good looking husband is good looking.

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Know what else is good looking? That pear, chocolate, and cream stuffed flirt!

It probably seems really dinky but I was thrilled to realize that even though it’s rusty, my French is still there. If I learned it by doing, I’m suddenly confident in a way I haven’t felt in years that I could remember by doing as well. As it happens, on our second crepe endeavor, besides the Eiffel Tower, I was again complimented by a Parisian on my language skills. He didn’t mistake me for a Native, but he did ask if I was Canadian. All things considered, and years without practice, I think I’ll take that as high praise as well.
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These guys charmed locals and tourists alike with tons of gesticulation and winks.

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I might be half blinded by the sun and look like a sleep deprived crepe troll, but that face is the look of rediscovered Francophone victory well rewarded, minions.