A solid foundation

Lingerie shopping for that first date reminded me on my very first bra fitting in Paris. I was nearly 40, had had two children and had not changed bra sizes in a very, very long time. To be perfectly honest, I had not actually worn a bra in a very, very long time. Like an insect in metamorphosis, I was changing from a granola-munching, hairy-legged, commando-dressing Californian into me. I’d look at the moms picking up their kids at the girls’ school and, as a designer, I could not help noticing that having the proper under garments made a significant different to their lignes.

I was ready for some underwear. Remembering that my Mom had taught me to always purchase one bra for three matching panties (yes, my Mom was cool), I spent several hours strolling through the lingerie department looking for something I thought I could actually wear. I was finally ready to try on a few pretty, yet practical, everyday bras to see how they fit.

The woman at the changing room stopped me cold. “Are you sure you have the right size?”

Oui, oui, madame.”

“Well, I’m not so sure,” she replied as she clinically took her hands and cupped them over my breast. I let out a startled squeak as my eyes popped out of my head and my feet left the ground in surprise. “You’re an A cup,” she announced loudly enough for anyone to hear. She then put her two hands on either side of my rib cage and declared me a 90. 90A. The bras in my hands were 85B, which confirms that I am an optimist.

It also confirms that I had not yet learned how important proper fitting underwear is for a chic Parisienne style. I started paying attention, and at the gym I noticed that even for a workout, the girls were all wearing properly fitting, matching underwear, just like my Mom had said. And it was not necessarily expensive, many of my Parisiennes get their Dim underwear at Monoprix for bras that give a great silhouette with a comfortable fit for everyday wear.

Since girls just wanna have fun, they also like the lacy stuff from time to time. Practical girls head to Orcanta, where they have a large selection of many different brands with a respectably diverse selection of ‘moods’ in a variety of price ranges. When I am feeling particularly up-scale and naughty, I like Marlies Dekkers, for her flattering, extra-odinarily comfortable designs that are hot enough for a girl like Fergie from the Red Hot Chili Peppers. When I am looking for luxurious fabrics with that silky feel, I head to Princesse Tam Tam. Sometimes I get so carried away that I have to remind myself that I am there to look lovely when I am dressed and need to think about how the garments flatter me and my outfits (or not). For that, Aubade has the “cheater’s panty” which I will not picture here because my Dad and my kids read this blog. Not to mention Mr French’s assistant! If I really want to splurge, and I don’t care about what I’ll be wearing on top, I look at Eres for sumptuous silks in girlie not-frilly designs that have been proven to drive men wild.





Going Live

The problem with attempting online dating in Paris, is that if you are at all successful, then eventually, your ‘date’ is going to want to take things offline and actually meet you. Of course, that is the goal anywhere you start chatting up people online, but in Paris, chances are pretty high that you’ll be meeting a Frenchman who is used to seeing Parisiennes all day, every day.

Now, if you are a happily confident soul, this is not an issue (and you are a very lucky person) but if, like me, you are slightly complexed about your rounder than the-averag-local-girl figure and painfully aware that you are NOT a chic Parisienne, and on top of that had not dated, had not even contemplated dating, in the previous two decades, much less meet a new man for anything more adventurous than a coffee to discuss business, the thought can be overwhelmingly INTIMIDATING.

And that is exactly how I felt after Mr French and I had been ‘seeing’ each other online for a while. I wanted to meet him live, but I had no confidence and was paralysed by the simplest possible question; what do you wear on your first date with a Frenchman that you’ve never seen before, and who, more importantly, has never seen you?

Being plugged in, I posted the question online to see what the fashionistas of France had to say, and I got some fantastic advice, “Wear your favorite outfit, whatever that is. Something you feel absolutely comfortable and at ease in, something you know and that knows your body. Whatever you do, do not go out and buy something new.”

The advice continued, “Then go out and buy yourself the sexiest, most fabulous lingerie you can find. Something that you love and that makes you feel wonderful.”

Those women, like most truly chic ladies, understood that bras and underwear were not called foundation wear for nothing. They are the foundation of your style, they define your silhouette, control how your clothing falls and flows as you move and if chosen properly, they can give you a delicious secret that is visible to none, but obvious to anyone paying attention.

I started going through my closet, choosing my favorite jeans, my favorite blazer and some adorable kitten heeled boots that I simply loved. The blazer and the shoes were a color that seemed particularly appropriate for a date; chocolate. Then I went to Chantal Thomass where I picked out a little (teeny, tiny, even) something in a warm chocolate satin with laces. Not lace, but laces.

A week later it was D-Date. I am not crazy. I did not know this person and I had met him online. All this build up and angst was about a coffee date. We’d be in a crowded room together for as little as 15 minutes and a maximum of two hours if things went exceedingly well. Being the old-fashioned girl that I am, there is no way that anyone but me was going to be seeing my underwear that day. But it worked like a charm, and I walked out my front door feeling very comfortable in my old jeans, yet standing tall with my little secret…



Two years ago I was sitting with my friend, Marie-Louise planning a holiday. Smart AND and beautiful, with impeccable taste, the owner of Tselana Travel is one of the most exquisite Parisiennes I know and on that day she had an even more spectacular glow. I asked what was up. Was she pregnant? Did she have a secret?

Non, I have just returned from an absolutely breath-taking place, the Makgadikgadi salt pans. We spent a night out on the pan in the middle of nowhere. It was indescribably magical.”

“BING” at that moment I became a bit more French; I started planning our next vacation before we’d even settled on an itinerary for this one… so many vacation days, so little time.

The Makgadikgadi pan is the size of Switzerland but it is in Botswana. Marie-Louise’s rave reviews are one of the reasons we came here. My love of Africa, Mr French’s passion for the desert, and The No1 Ladies Detective Agency are some of the other reasons.

Our canopy bed, on the deck

Our trip began in the Okavanga Delta, considered to be one of the largest oasis in this world with about 11 cubic kilometers of water per year (its alot of water). One of the unique things about this area is that it floods during the dry season, thanks to a flowing river in Angola that takes its time getting to the region, and this makes for spectacular wildlife viewing and  bird nerd heaven.

A star soaked bath


While in the Okavanga we stayed (with Harrison Ford) at Sanctuary Baines Camp which, in addition to being a very nice place in the middle of the all the action, has some fantastic features. Like the Living with Elephants project, Land Cruisers with snorkels, a canopy bed on wheels that they can roll out on to your private deck if you want to sleep under the stars, or the opportunity to have the bath of a life time under the Africa sky.

We then went to Linyanti, a Delta river, crossed by the Savuti channel that was dry for decades and has recently replenished, creating an absolute paradise for all living things. Including some of the last African Wild dogs on earth and a really adventurous pride of lions that added some fantastic drama to our trip. Our lodge there was Duma Tau, run by the über professional team of Wilderness Safaris. So professional, that we barely noticed when we changed lodges during our stay.


We went out for one of the most remarkable game drives of our lives (a boat ride through the channel, 100’s of elephants, getting charged by an angry hippo and watching a large family of giraffe as they watched us before fleeing single file into a field for a better view) and came back to pristine new lodgings. The original site had been lovely; thatched roofs over green canvas walls with plenty of wood logs. There’d been elephants munching away at branches just an arm’s reach from the dining room, but the new site, with regal white tents, polished wood and gleaming copper, is gorgeous and it won’t belong before the elephants move the 1.5 kilometers up the river for a little human companionship.

a rare to see Wild Dog hunt... even rarer to see the impala get away

After all the running water, it was time for the desert landscape of the Central Kalahari, where we were welcomed by Yaccoub (sp?) and his bushman friend Xaruge (pronounced Gar-U-Hah) at his family’s private lodge. Deception Valley Lodge is about 70 kilometers from where Mark and Delia Owens set up camp before writing about their adoptive family of lions in the fantastic book, Cry of the Kalahari, another reason we were in Botswana, and it provides a unique opportunity to learn about life in Botswana for people like you or me. With a resident porcupine, and Zazu-like hornbill, it was enthralling to sit watching the water hole as giraffe, zebra and a whole range of antelope, including the largest in Africa, the terribly shy eland, came to drink. It was not unusual to come across Kalahari lions during our game drives and it was here, that at last,  Harrison’s prediction came true and I saw a leopard…

Finally, it was time for our inspiration… the salt pans. Owned by aventurier extraordinaire, Ralph Bousfield, San Camp is a particularly special place with a luxuriously simple design, that had us confusing R Bousfield with R Lauren. We were very fortunate that Ralph’s mother Nicky, whose family has been in Africa for over 100 years, was there for a part of our stay, regaling us with stories from her grandfather’s day, about tracking with the bushmen and the countless adventures she shared with her husband, Jack.

A rare, open air museum

Neighbouring Jack’s Camp has Botswana’s third museum, with a rich open-air collection of skulls and body parts that spills over to San Camp. The Makgadikgadi salt pans are low on large wild life during the dry season; only a few elephant, spring hare, aardwolf, jackal and signs of lion were about. But we weren’t in town for the wild life.

No electricity here...


We were in town for a cultural exchange with the San (bushmen), a visit with meerkats, and a whole lot of nothing in pans, where it is so silent, you can hear the blood flowing through your veins. Oh, and the stars. There is nothing more gorgeous than the desert sky and spending a night out there was an absolute dream. I didn’t even feel it when Mr French pinched me.

Africa… absolutely improbable



Dumela Mma !!!

Elephant trunk Okavanga

That’s Setswana for Bonjour, Madame…Bonjour, Monsieur from the heart of the Kalahari. It is breathtaking here (sometimes quite literally, what with charging elephants, treed lions and hunting wild dogs!!!)
I can’t wait to share it all, but oddly enough,,the local wild life has not invested a ton in online connections, so wifi is slow, or non-existant.
Looking forward to sharing our adventures…
Tsama jacente from Finding Noon

A hot night out

Mr French’s daughter was born in July, so we often celebrate her birthday here in Hossegor. The restaurants in town are fantastic, but a couple of years ago we were looking for something particularly special to celebrate her 30th birthday. Lucky for us, that very same year the Michelin starred chef, Coussu, from the Relais de la Poste in nearby Magesqc (that is not a typo, just a town with an oddly written name), was invited to open a restaurant in Hossegor.

It seemed like the perfect place to celebrate. The restaurant is in a beautiful, eco-friendly, contemporary building of raw wood and canvas on the dunes over looking the beach. The westerly walls are sliding glass and there is a large, protected terrasse bordered with wild grasses that add a sweet perfume to the typical restaurant aromas.

Coussu is famous for what he does with foie gras, but here it is all about seafood and vegetables. There were flowers in our food, with clovers decorating our plates. A crab entrée (“starter” for anglophones) was a play on sensations, with a bit of crab infused ice floating over the warm meat and a bit of room temperature crab coral cream. Other dishes played with textures; rough, crispy, crunchy falafel bits adding a delightful hit to a fish dish.

This is one of the few, perhaps the only, fine dining experience I’ve ever enjoyed with a show, because as we were served one stunning dish after another the sun began to set. The colors were stupendous and even blasé Parisiens were standing up with their cameras to take pictures of the sensation spectacle.

Then the desserts came out and at that very moment J’s friend, who had her back to the kitchen, started waving her hands wildly in excitement. Her arms flung back, hitting the waiter and his precious cargo. A few plates went flying, the flambéd desserts with them and in an instant our table was on fire. Everyone’s attention was on putting out the flames when I started to feel a bit warm derrière. My seat was on fire, and my skirt too…

Astonishingly, the waiter scampered off, never to been seen or heard from again. We were too drunk on the happiness of the moment to care, a flamboyant end to a truly brilliant evening.

What the chef has to say; “Born in the terroir of Les Landes, cradled between land and sea, I wanted this “place”, a unique setting to serve an incomparable cuisine to the perpetual chatter of the sea”

On the Prowl…

July has gone out with a roar as we enter the astrological sign of Leo, and men will soon be flooding the streets of Paris, on the prowl. Actually, the hunt begins just after the 14 juilllet, when families head off on summer holidays, heading back to the city, the children safely ensconced with the grandparents, or some hapless aunt, or in a summer camp.

It is time for the adults to play. Some of the families divide and conquer, with Mom and Dad taking turns watching the kids while the other returns to work in Paris. And that is when things start to get wild. I don’t know what the women are up to, but these days the cafés are overflowing with solo, but not necessarily single, men looking for a date.

And, as luck would have it, this is prime travel season for the rest of the Northern hemisphere. Tons of tourists are streaming in to the city, many of them single women (or men), some of them dreaming of being swept off their feet by a French prince charming, totally unaware of the current climate.

I once had a friend who was lured into the trap. Here on holidays, he chose to attend a public lecture at the Carnavalet museum in the Marais. A very handsome Parisien, Vladamir,  approached him and invited him for a café after the event. My friend was charmed, and they spent some time chatting. As they chatted a few alarm bells started going off. What was a fairly young, presumably employed local doing at a museum lecture in the middle of the afternoon?

Vladamir invited my friend back to his place. When my friend declined, saying he had a husband back home, Vladamir gave him his address, just in case my friend should change his mind. That night over drinks, my friend told me the tale.

“Oh, and he lives in your neighborhood, just a block away, on the rue de xx.”

“Vladamir on the rue de xx? I know a Vladamir on the rue de xx. He works with my husband. That’s too funny! No way they’re the same Vladamir, though, ours is married to a woman with two kids.In fact my daughter is very close with his son.”

“Oh, you never know….” And he went on to describe Vladamir, OUR Vladamir.

So caveat emptor, my dear friends, if you happen to meet a charming Parisien during the school holidays and he seems just too good to be true, chances are he very well may be.

Setting sail

Mr French and I head to the beach every summer. I find it rather odd and sometimes constraining to return to the same spot year after year, but this seems to be a French tradition, and to be honest, after a very difficult year, I am quite relieved to be heading to a place where I don’t have to think. No planning, no guide books, no angst over where to dine, or hoping to see it all. Been there, done that, if not this year, we’ll be back. We both feel like we’re headed into a safe harbour after a year spent in stormy seas. But we’re not there, yet, we’re still in Paris, slightly on edge as we wait for Mr French’s passport.

Last night we needed to feel like we were away already, somewhere near the sea, so we headed to La Compagnie de Bretagne, a new-ish crêperie overseen my the Michelin starred chef Olivier Roellinger. At first, I was not a big fan of these new wave, gourmet crêpes, being the traditional girl that I am. But at some point I had to have to get over myself and admit that there are enough meals in a lifetime to enjoy the most excellent, traditional crêpes from my beloved Ty Breizh AND for the scrumptus new fangled ones from LCDB.

I love the ambiance here, especially the sunbeams pouring down from the skylight and the zen of an entirely black and white decor. It feels intimidatingly luxurious, but the prices are reassuringly welcoming.

Tonight I had a galette with grilled sardines and preserved lemons on a bed of steamed spinach. Absolute perfect for my palette and my waistline. My French had some squid with a divine safran cream sauce. Miam! For dessert there was an apricot clafoutis crêpe and the much more traditional caramel au beurre salé, both worth their weight in calories. And the cidres selection is rather impressive, with a serious cellar featuring artisanal bottles for every palette.

Usually you can go into the basement and visit M Roellinger’s cellars in their elegant, glass enclosed clay vaults. there restrooms are down there and they have an area for private events, but all that was inaccessible they day we showed up… there had been an incident involving fire and the basement was closed for the evening. Its seemed we weren’t the only ones needing a holiday!

We sailed home and crawled into bed, feeling like we were already by the sea.

La Compagnie de Bretagne / 9 Rue de l’École de Médecine, 6e / 0143293900 /         (M) Odeon

For something more traditional; Ty Breizh / 52 boulevard Vaugirard, 15e /                          01 43 20 83 72‎ / (M) Montparnasse-Bienvenue

Headed North

Before moving to Paris I’d fantasize about cycling the city’s cobble-paved streets on a traditional Dutch bike, trench coat and middie skirt batting the wind as my red pumps hooked carelessly onto the wide pedals. That was circa 2000. Now the ugly, clunky, but oh-so-practical Velib’s are available with pedals that unabashedly murder a girl’s shoes, yet sensibility has won out and I am often seen struggling along in whatever happens to be the outfit du jour. I still live the dream from time to time, finding it especially rewarding when men turn their heads, and their handle bars, ending in near fatal accidents.

But that’s during the week. On weekends Mr French keeps me in check. I get serious about my cycling and we head out on some pretty great adventures. Sunday’s adventure began with lunch on the terrace at La Cantine de Quentin where an ageless, artsy crowd mixes with senile old locals and young families to enjoy tradition French cuisine with an original twist, like the steak tartare served with finely minces mushrooms instead of fries. Or the lentil salad with a foie gras chantilly. Delicious.

a pizza truck outside the Fishing Cat ballroom - I've kept the finger in the frame, it's so vintage!

I know that doesn’t sound like serious cycling, but a girl’s got to eat (and maybe enjoy a glass of rosé). Soon enough we were off, heading north up the Canal St Martin to the Canal de l’Ourcq, with its 25 km of reserved cycling path beginning within the city of Paris, running along the Canal, through the lively La Vilette area with its museums, parks and astounding mirrored geodesic dome. At the city outskirts the scenery starts getting very industrial, very quickly, with cement plants and train yards and fantastically graffiti-ed abandoned warehouses.

A picnic break

At one point, among lawn and poplars, a group of very talented taggers was hard at work tagged as they partied to rap music and bbq-ed a picnic to share with another group of fans; severly disabled adults with their caretakers and souped up wheelchairs. Turns out these taggers have been tagged by the city of Bobigny and they were being sponsored to beautify the area. They were doing were doing an astounding job and were remarkably cool to visit with.

The canal was alive: barges went past, Canauxrama boats sped by and trains clamoured along – everyone was on the move. There was a mini-shanty town,  temporary espresso bar, the Chat Qui Peche guinguette, kayaks on loan, and many, many other sportsmen cycling, running, or blading along.

16km later we came to the Parc de Sevrans and its gunpowder museum. Yes, Virginia, there is a gunpowder museum. There is also a teaching farm, apiculture center and a climbing wall, but we were pretty tired by now, so it was time to head back, pedaling directly into the wind the entire 16km to La Villette, before heading home. I can’t say we minded that it was the final match of the Euro Cup Sunday night, providing us with the perfect excuse to sit at home, acting like couch patates. Two happily exhausted souls.

RESTAURANT/ La Cantine de Quentin

52 rue Bichat, 10e /  01 42 02 40 32/ (M) Jacques Bonsergent

Happily ever after…

Imagine a life without the promise of a happily ever after. I think of this occasionally; when I’m waiting for the metro to clamour up, as I avoid the people mags at the Dr’s office or at the movies before the show begins. I wonder how different my expectations would have been had my mother not ended most days of my early childhood tucking me in and reading a story about some beautiful princess, the man who rescues her and their happily every after. I particularly think of this in the cinema because this is where I first learned that in France, for this too, things are different.

Its thanks to a playful film starring the actress Charlotte Gainsbourg and her actor husband Yvan Attal and it is called, Ils se marièrent et eurent beaucoup d’enfants.

“What a funny title.” I laughed one day, walking by the billboards of the Odeon cinemas with my chief Parisienne.
“Its like in the fairytales.”
“What fairytales?”
“Yes, you know, they always end with that line, and they got married and had lots of children.”

In France, Cinderella went from her step-mother’s frying pan into her new husband’s fire with a bevy of children to look after; challenging her waistline and her future. And it would seem that Frenchwomen have bought into the story line, hook, line and sinker, contributing to one of the highest birth rates in Europe. Frenchwomen are not raised with the expectation of having a fairytale life once they marry, so they prepare to look after themselves, which is one of the reasons they have one of the highest employment rates of mothers in the Western world. Being a princess starts to sound a lot less fantastic, and a whole lot more realistic.

Which I am starting to find works for me. Let’s face it, I am not a princess. The laundry needs to get done, the dishes don’t wash themselves and raising kids is alot of work, even when being tackled by two people who love each other very much.

Then there is the niggling detail; happily ever afters simply do not exist. Again, I learned this from the French. I was at a Paris night club, having a fantastic evening with my husband, dancing and drinking champagne, when a hit from the 80’s came on and I began to sing, listening to the lyrics for the first time, “Les histoires d’amour finissent mals.” (All love stories end badly)

No they don’t! I objected.
Yes they do! I reasoned.

Because even if you love each other madly until the end of your days, there is an end to your days, and your partner’s and that end rarely arrives simultaneously. The French are right, there is really no such thing as a happily ever after. Which sounds so sad, but is really quite liberating and makes you savour the happily for now moments of everyday life.


A gold gilded run

I seem to be getting older everyday, and that means I’m getting a bit fatter, too. Like many Parisiennes, I love my wardrobe and it is full of favorites from decades past. Unlike many Parisiennes, I eat too much. Which means that if I want my painstakingly curated wardrobe to fit me this season, and seasons to come, I have to move my ass. I hate running, but there are no decent gyms in our new neighborhood, so I am left with no choice, but to run.

The thing that saves me is the view. Once you get over the heavy breathing, running in Paris can be fun. In the Luxembourg gardens you start to recognize folks. There is the Kenyan looking gentleman who seems to run all day, everyday, whizzing past even the firemen as if he is training for a marathon. There are the firemen, keeping in shape for the next emergency, the lady in a nice blazer and a banana belt who shuffles along, and a homeless man with mismatched shoes. A bunch of runners got together and bought him a new pair of running shoes. He still wears them mismatched. I guess its his “look”.

I could almost forget I am running

But running in circles is not really my thing. I’m happier going places, so we run along the Seine, passing the city’s most beautiful monuments. Eye candy is sweet, but doesn’t go to the hips. There are worse places one could run.

On particularly gorgeous weekends, we may head to Versailles early in the morning. This weekend, we had the entire Chateau grounds to ourselves as the staff prepared for the swarms of tourists who were just outside the gates, waiting for the Grandes Eaux Musicales. It was magical running in the coolness of the early morning as a light fog lifted, revealing the palace in all its grandeur.

One loop around the Tuileries ends our run.

When I start acting particularly petulant and need a kick in my fat ass bit of motivation, Mr French throws me into his car and heads up to Deauville for the day. We arrive early by French standards and run along the boardwalk before the crowds awake; heading from the tip of the port to the large rocks beyond Tourgeville and back, followed by a delicious swim in the salt water Olympic swimming pool on the beach. So heavenly I actually want to run!



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