Ladies with an attitude


Screen shot 2014-06-13 at 3.30.40 PMThere is often a bevy of handsome young men standing outside the building next door. Occasionally, I will find myself alone in the evening, dressed up after a dinner out and winding my way along the narrow, romantic street I call home. As I pass, the neighboring door, the picturesque little clique stands up taller, straightening their ties, brushing back their carefully gelled hair, preening like peacocks.

Screen shot 2014-06-13 at 3.14.32 PMIt would be flattering to think such good looking men were truly interested in me, but I suspect that they are much more interested in gaining access to the libertine club (high-end swingers club) that is just 10 meters away from the entrance they block. The kind of place where single men are not welcome and a last minute date most welcome, good chemistry not required. I have never been a customer and the only kind of swinging that tempts me is from jungle vines in African forests, but it does make me incredibly curious, wishing I could be the proverbial fly on the wall, safely out of range of any S&M whips that may swash through the air.

Which is why I was thrilled when I met Heather Stimmler-Hall the author of Naughty Paris, a ladies guide to the sexy city. Heather has just come out with the second edition of her book, updating addresses and adding internet solutions, so it will stay pertinent. What I loved about meeting Heather was seeing that an eloquent, elegant lady has her wild side and isn’t afraid to share it, giving confidence to more timid creatures. And while I’ll probably never sprout the wings required to fly into one of those clubs, I heartily approve of her choice of hotels, restaurants and shopping, while savouring a voyeuristic satisfaction of seeing a discrete insider photo, or two, of the clubs to feed my imagination.

The guide is not just for wild romantics, it is written for solo women looking for love (she mentions Screen shot 2014-06-13 at 3.30.58, the site where I found Mr French!) and gaggles of girls who just wanna have fun! Pole dancing classes, make-up tips, CFM shoes, NP steals a glimpse of it all.

As a loyalty card carrying member of a local “sexy costume” boutique where I shop for our weekend get aways, and a die hard fan of French stockings (modern silicon keeps them up at the thighs, no more slipping down, and they are SO sexy!), I can’t wait to visit one of the corset makers Heather recommends. I was thinking midnight blue silk with rolled satin trim, no lace. And her pages pushed me to finally reserve a romantic dinner at 1728.

Heather’s 2nd edition will only be available in the US in December, but you can get your own, personal sneak preview by contributing to the Kickstarter Campaign Heather is running so she can do an environmentally friendly print run of the books. Keep in mind, this is not a donation, you are getting what you would be buying normally, only a few months before anyone else AND her campaign has a bunch of special offers for some incredibly romantic moment in the sexy city. Keep in mind, Kickstarter campaigns only run 30 days, so its now, or never. And if NaughytParis doesn’t raise the entire 20,000 CDN dollars they are looking for, then you are not charged a cent, but you don’t get the book, either. Its daddy takes all folks, so step into the club for a fun, flirty visit to Paris. THE GOOD STUFF IS HERE

ps – all images stolen directly from Naught Paris. I figure they won’t mind a threesome for the cause!!!

Made in France

Screen shot 2014-04-03 at 2.19.00 PMThere was recently a documentary on local tv following a 20 something journalist as he lived for 9 months using only things made in France. I did not watch the show, but I saw interviews on tv and read up on his adventure quite a bit. He had to do without a fridge, his phone died and couldn’t be replaced, an affordable car was not an option and he had to take a loan out to live like this for just nine months. He gains 5kg because a quick Made in France snack at home would mean bread and cheese, outside the home… McDonald’s!!!

HisScreen shot 2014-04-03 at 2.19.39 PM quest is not new. Last year over the holidays I gave you uniquely Parisian gift ideas, on a quest for something with a little more personality than mass produced goods from Asia. Like the journalist’s phone, being made in France does not ensure better quality. But there is some fantastic design out there an I ran across a few places while out exploring this weekend.

Screen shot 2014-04-03 at 2.18.29 PMIt was the rooster in the window that caught my eye at Gab & Jo. Everything else pulled me in and kept me there. I found a lovely silk cotton nightie set (100€) was tempted by the antique phone lamp (1500€) and couldn’t resist the CHAT-nel tote bag (22€) for La Fashionista. This weekend I’m going back for the blue, white red security belt that keeps thieves from stealing a purse from a bike basket (30€).

I found Gab&Jo while running to the pharmacist, A Zagorski at 6 rue Jacob where I had recently discovered their house made shampoos and conditioners (9€). Screen shot 2014-04-03 at 2.19.22 PMI loved the new products so much I wanted to learn more, but they couldn’t tell me much, because they were afraid it would be considered advertising and it is illegal for pharmacies to advertise in France. Which means this is my new best kept secret. There are bath gels, hand creams and tonic lotions, too, with options a variety of special needs. My favorite fragrances are honeysuckle and verbena. So far, they’ve been great on my hair and I love keeping it local!

Screen shot 2014-04-03 at 2.39.52 PMFinally on my journey, I passed by the Maeght Foundation on the rue du Bac. They have a collection of fairy tales illustrated by world class artists who use graphic symbols to tell their tale (42€). The books are abound like accordians, as enchanting to touch as they are to read. In my Fable of Fortune, the blue dot represents fortune, the brown curve a horse and the black lines a rich man and his wife.

As I write this it is not lost on me that I a quoting 9€ for a shampoo, 42€ for a book. Producing anything in France is costly, but when you buy Made in France you’re getting original pieces you’d be hard pressed to find elsewhere and everything on this list, at least, offers high quality to go along with the hefty price tag, sometimes make it worth the purchase, but always worth dropping by to decide for yourself.


Shopping & Other Stories

& Other StoriesIts fall, the leaves are turning, the skies are grey and E is packing up for her sophomore year at college in the US. Being Parisienne, an important part of getting ready includes stocking up on local fashion and today we had a date to shop. E, my hard working, very reasonable, responsible teen suggested we head to the Faubourg St Honoré (cue in the sound of a stereo needle scratching across a vinyl lp). Yes, we’re talking that infamous street that is home to the likes of Dior, Gucci and Chanel. Had she fallen on her head? Did we need to see a doctor? I decided that she had meant “window” shopping, which sounded perfect to my bottom line, so we headed out the door, a trendy lunch & Other Stories in our future.

& Other Stories Lunch was lovely. But today I’m here to tell you about & Other Stories. Yes, its on one of the most expensive, trendiest streets on the world where 3000€ is considered normal for a coat (cashmere, Gucci, it looked divine) and boots are rarely designed for walking. And yes, it is in a gorgeous, light filled space with a glass enclosed stair case and plenty of space. The customers carry handbags with a pedigree. But a quick look at the price tags and I looked at E with new found respect. Beautiful, genuine leather handbags for under 100€.

The designs were fresh and original, the fabrics often authentic silk, wool or leather. The staff was present and friendly. So friendly, that I asked the very charming Danielle in the cosmetics section where we had landed.

Screen shot 2013-09-11 at 5.00.35 PM& Other Stories, she was delightfully proud to share, is the latest project of the Swedish H&M chain. Exclusively for women, the shop has clothing, but really focuses on cosmetics and accessories. High quality cosmetics with a conscious. They have a recycling scheme for used bottles and offer customers a 10% discount for participating. And original accessories made by serious designers. I think there were at least 6 pairs of shoes that had me whining, “I, want”! Wooden heeled shoes that would look perfect with a sober Jil Sanders tunic, or laser cut leather boots that were crying for Alaïa.

The prices for everything were on par with what they’re asking for the entirely less fashionable, synthetic fibre clothing at the grungy Monoprix up the street from our home. And was a wonderful afternoon, and we ended it by indulging in an onctuous hot chocolate next door chez Jean Paul Hévin. Ain’t life sweet?


Curtain drawn

Mr French and I do not have curtains in our living room. He finds this terribly odd, but it does not bother me one bit. We look out over a garden, the building across the street is full of nuns and with kids in the house we keep the private moments, private.

His mother also finds this incredibly odd. But not too odd, because the last time she came to visit she loved being waited on hand and foot by lil’ ol’ moi so very much that she stopped taking her medication and got ill just so that she could stay longer in my lap of luxury. Regardless, she now refuses to ever come visit again, unless we get curtains. Which strikes me as a very good argument for living without them.

But Mr French wants curtains and he has vetoed the lovely, linen IKEA ones I have had for the last 20 years, so I head to one of my favorite places in Paris, the Marché St Pierre at the foot of the Sacre Coeur Basilica.

I arrived on a rain day, which provided a bit of atmosphere as I made my way up the narrow, meandering cobbled streets. Umbrellas dotted the scene as I hopped around, avoiding murky puddles. The Marché isn’t really a marché at all, but a store on 4 or 5 floors that has been selling just about every kind of fabric you can image since 1920.

The magasin draws one of the most eclectic crowds you can imagine; African ladies in their brightly patterned batiks (which, in an odd twist of history, traditionally come from Amsterdam) sift through bargain bins elbow to elbow with funky clad fashion design students. Bourgeois women are there for home furnishing, or school projects standing in line behind men in suits. We’re all there for fabric and it feels like you’ve entered an exclusive private club when you enter the neon-lit, dusky space. Social barriers melt away as strangers start talking, then joking with one another, the entire exchange made possible by a mutual appreciation for fabric. And while it feels exclusive, the prices are anything but, this being the best place to come for affordable fabrics.

The store drew other fabrics shops to the area. If they don’t have what you’re looking for, Reine across the street most certainly will. Almost all the other, smaller shops have fold with the arrival of cheap foreign fashion and they have been replaced by costume shops selling some great fashions for the local trade; hookers and show girls and just maybe bourgeois Moms who are in the area looking for curtain fabric and decide that this may be fun excuse to send the kids away for the weekend and to actually need those curtains after all.

Le Moleskin

I’m back, and since I was out exploring the world, I was thinking about, dealing with and actively using maps. I love maps. Maps and guidebooks. I have been accused of being a  guidebook geek. I get guidebooks even for brief weekends that need nothing more than a quick Google search, so guidebooks with great maps, well, they send me over the moon. You can imagine my nerdy excitement when Moleskin started publishing City guides that featured fantastic maps, some great tabs and lots of empty space for you to create your own guide. In the blink if an eye, I’d bought tw.o; Paris, of course and one for a pending trip to London. That was nearly a decade agoIt turns out I’ve barely touched the Paris version. Living here quickly made it irrelevant, but my London Moleskin is my treasure. It has an envelope in the back and this is where I store all the cards of people we’ve met and may like to visit again, people like shop owners, tour guides, the guy who grills sea scallops wrapped in bacon at the Borough market and specialists on one subject or another.

Then there are all those empty tabbed sections where I can note which hotels we stayed in, what we loved about it, what was annoying and the rates we paid so that I can compare when booking subsequent trips. I do the same for the restaurants we’ve really enjoyed. That’s all pretty standard use, I imagine, but I do two things with the Moleskin that I really depend on.

1/ I keep a running list of all the places that we pass that we would have loved to have tasted, seen or explored but simply couldn’t for one reason or another. The title of this list is Next Trip and every time we return I tick off a line item or two. This trip I finally got to check off a visit to the Apsley House (the Duke of Wellington lived here), Mr French’s shave and lunch at The Only Running Footman pub while I added a visit to the record shops in Soho, lunch at Tayyab Indian restaurant in the East End and ordering stationary from Smythson’s on Bond St.

2/ The guides come with tracing paper post-its that I stick over the (very well done) maps, drawing symbols of places of personal interest. I’ve sketched a parasol over James & Sons umbrella shop, a stiletto over Senderson’s glorious shoe store. There are teacups and frames and books and canes and crosses. As we walk out of a museum, leave a park, or finish dining, I take a quick glance at the map and I know in an instant if there is something else we may like to visit in the area and exactly what it is.

I also keep a brief travel journal, which is fun to read and particularly helpful for reminding me of little details, like my favorite cocktail, you have to rent the lounge chairs in Green Park and where the best toilets are hidden. I also write funny conversations we’ve over heard, which can be some what embarrassing as I sit in the Eurostar, reviewing my notes prior to our arrival. Embarrassing because the restrained French and staid Brits are invariably shocked when a loud guffaw escapes me.


Ancient Egyptians were hobbling around on high heels, so it is hardly a new thing. Monsieur Ramses was strapping on his heels to avoiding getting his feet dirty with blood as he worked in his butcher shop, so things have evolved considerably in the last 5000 years.  We can thank the Italians for several phases of this evolution, as they wore heels on stage in Ancient Rome and then, in the 15th century, took the Turkish platform chopines and raised them to vertiginous heights. Particularly the Venetians, who have left samples with heels as high as 30cm. It was an evil plot, with the Republic’s patriarchs convinced that this was a sure way to keep their women at home, or at the very least, under escort, as they required servants to hold them steady to teeter from Palazzo to gondola and home again. It’s no wonder we use the Italian term to describe the most daring, most vertiginous heels today.

And the fact that the term defines the shape of a sharp, pointy weapon doesn’t seem to be an accident… they can be instruments of torture. And yet, we love them, covet them and spend excessive amounts of money acquiring them. Even when they may be just a half size too small (but they were on sale, I saved a fortune!).

On the last weekend before our departure, exactly one hour before stores closed for the weekend, Mr French dragged me out of the kitchen where I’d been preparing the meals for the week and steered me towards the posh rue de Grenelle, despite the distinct odor of onion emanating from my hands. The rue de Grenelle is an 8 minute walk from our front door and it just happens to be shoe lover’s mecca.

Chloé, Stuart Weitzman, Giuseppe Zanotti, Fratelli Rosetti, Marc Jacobs, Michael Kors, Prada, Sergio Rossi and Michel Perry can all be found along the 75 meters of street that run from the Carrefour de la Croix Rouge and the boul Raspail. Oh, and Christian. Yes, Louboutin is there, too.

The saleswoman for the dress had suggested silver shoes, but I had settled for a pair of black silk mules, with a reasonable 2 inch heel that I already had in my closet. Mr French wanted us to follow the saleswoman’s advice, but I didn’t want shiny silver, so we had one hour to find a pair of matte silver shoes. I was feeling confident that I’m be wearing my mules.

First stop; Sergio Rossi, where they had a perfectly acceptable pair of matte silver heels. They were lovely and I could use them for everyday wear at the office after the event. I was sold. As we walked towards the register, Mr French stopped in his tracks. He had spotted a pair of black and grey satin stilettos. He was intrigued. I tried them on. He feel hook, line and sinker. 5 minutes later I was stumbling out of the boutique with my first-ever pair of stiletto heels.

I have to admit, the extra inch made a world of difference to the whole outfit. As I walked into the Palazzo in Venice, eyes were drawn to the sparkly tips of my toes. Women looked at them admiringly and a few even asked for a closer look. Not that I plan on making stilettos a regular addition to my wardrobe, but it was fun to feel like an It Girl for the evening.

London Shopping

Looking back on the past year’s posts, its pretty clear that Mr French and I spend most of our holidays in fairly remote places. Places like the Magkadigkadi salt pans or the beaches of Hossegor, where we go for the adventure or the food, and sometimes the adventure AND the food. But this trip to London, we also did a bit of shopping, and while I can think of nothing tackier than doing a haul post of all our purchases, we visited some pretty exceptional shops.

The first was Liberty & Co, a department store founded in 1875, just 25 years after the the world’s first department store, the Bon Marché opened in Paris. Liberty is housed in a faux Tudor building, featuring timber from the very non-faux battleships HMS Hindustan and HMS Impregnable and it is world famous for the colorful


A leaded glass window, the panes dated 1570!

cotton indian print fabrics. Fabrics that I happen to love, so I was thrilled to visit the mothership. I was even more thrilled to discover their fabric department, as well as their Eastern bazaar furniture section full of all kinds of treasures, including Arts and Crafts antiques and hundreds of rolled oriental carpets overflowing into the wood framed gallery walkways and spilling over the rails, looking very much like Ali Baba’s cavern.
The next day, it was Mr French’s turn and I had booked him a gentleman’s shave at Truefitt & Hill, just blocks from St James Square and a short stroll from Buckingham Palace, which is convenient since they are the official barber for His Royal Highness the Duke of Edinburg. Mr French was quite pleased with his shave, and while I’d like to believe it was because of the luxuriously warm face clothes, or the intensive triple shave with a straight edge razor, I suspect it was because of his charming barber and the way her pencil skirt clung seductively to her rear end (which he gallantly claims not to have noticed)!

We then ran directly across the street to Lock & Co, a hatter that started covering the heads of Londoners in 1676, exactly 100 years before the United States of America even existed. Nearly two centuries later, in 1849, a disgruntled hat wearer who was tired of constantly loosing his top hats to low hung branches, commissioned the hatter to build a better hat. They came up with the iconic bowler which they call a coke hat. Today, the 8th generation of the family still runs the business, selling tweed caps, beaver fur top hats, and the original bowler, as well as more modern designs with their Lock & Roll collection. Upstairs there is a lady’s milliner, where, oh yeah, they sell bowlers for us girls, too.

That afternoon we headed off for Mr French’s final treat, which is kind of hypocritical for me to say, as I was having the time of my life. But, we really were going for Monsieur who had lost his umbrella a few months earlier, and desperately needed a replacement. I guided

A golden horseshoe ensures you can open the brollies, without tempting fate

him slightly north, to New Oxford Street, where James Smith & Sons was established in 1830. Set in Hazelwood House, this family run, Victorian boutique is yet another treasure trove of history and finer living. The men’s umbrellas are custom cut to match each purchaser’s height, so that the entirely wooden shafts double as walking sticks. Mr French chose one made from hazelwood, like the name of the house and our salesman was so honored he let me take a few photos, although they are generally forbidden. The ladies’ umbrellas come with leather handles and dainty silk wrist bands so that you have a better grip. There were also canes with fantastical handles and a display of antique walking sticks with secret dice cups, drinking vials, and other illicit goodies…

The gentleman’s shops we visited all enjoy a royal warrant, which does not mean they are under arrest, but rather, they are official suppliers to the Queen’s household. While writing this article I stumbled upon the official website of the Royal Warrant and discovered a page that lets you see who is supplying what to the Queen’s household. I think its hysterical knowing that Charles’ toothpaste comes from Glaxo Kline Smith, or the Queen wears Clarins face cream. I couldn’t bring myself to look at the cleaning supplies, but I did notice from their list of hobby supplies that, be it photos or wild animals, the royals like to shoot. And since today was all about Mr French maybe next time I’ll download the address to the Queen’s jeweler.

Liberty & Co / Regent Street
Truefitt & Hill and Lock & Co / St James St
James Smith & Sons / New Oxford St

Advent -24


Technical, you’ve got all your gifts down by now, but I’m a girl who likes to meet her obligations, so I’ve got one last gift for you… the gift of Paris!

Be it 2 tickets for the City of Lights, or a night spent snuggled up on the sofa watching French cinema, there is little more romantic than Paris.

If you want it to last more than a moment, I have had hours of fun combing through the stacks of French movie posters and promotional photos at the Librairie Scaramouche.

But really, all you need is a bottle of bubbly, with some pepper Kettle chips, just like the ones they serve at the Café de Flore and a good film. I love everything from An American in Paris, or Gigi, to the more modern films like Taken, Marie Antoinette or Les Intouchables,

So cuddle up with a lovely soft comforter and

Bonnes Fêtes!!!

Here’s wishing for peace on earth to one and all.

Bises. Sylvia

ps.. I’ll be taking a break for the next few days, with just a random post here or there. See you after the holidays!!!


Advent -23

Get Out of Jail Free card

Or how about just a day’s escape? A little get away is a lovely break from the metro, bulot, dodo of life, but usually we are so caught up in the endless cycle of comings and goings that we never take the time out to get away, unless it is for a real holiday.

Day trips are a great solution and even if you can’t go this week, most of the work is in the planning and the actual going, so if you give your giftee a lovely box, or even an envelope with a series of cards of what you’ve planned, it can go over quite well.

Card 1/ Save the Date. It is essential to have a date chosen. Its really the most important part of the gift. It proves intent and keeps it from looking like a hollow promise.

Card 2/ A map. Let the person know where you’re going so they can get excited about your upcoming adventure.

Card 3/ Lunch plans. It doesn’t have to be fancy. It could be a picnic. But let the giftee know that you’ve been making plans.

Card 4/ The activity. Will you be going for a hike? Visiting a quaint village? Cycling a bit? Shopping at their favorite mall? Visiting a museum on the history of trains? Tide pooling? What ever it is let them know. One little idea is all you need, not a full blown itinerary.

If you happen to be in Paris, some of my favorite day trips are;

Baroque, not broke water fountains at Sceaux

Le Parc de Sceaux. – OMG folks, manicured lawns in France that you can sit on, walk across and even play a game of badminton (10€ Decathalon). There are tennis courts, an orangerie with concerts, a swimming pool and lovely grounds to explore. It is a short RER ride from Paris and the town bakery (one of several) L’Etoile du Berger, has great cakes and fantastic breads. Oh, and did I mention that this is where the fan-tab-u-lous chocolatier Patrick Roger has his first shop and atelier? the town has plenty to eat.

Versailles – I skip the town and the castle and head straight for the grounds where you can picnic, or rent a bike for a lovely cycle around sheep pastures and a dairy farm.

Deauville – Its a bit of a schlep, but the train is direct and a winter’s day at the beach is my kind of romantic. You can run the boardwalk, swim in the salt water pool, or go for a horse ride. Include a cheap lunch at Les Vapeurs with their astounding butter and I’m a happy girl.

Reims – Champagne capitol of the world. Need I say more? Hic’. Oh, and the Chagall windows in the cathedral make it my favorite house of worship in France.

La Coulée Verte – a 14km bike ride from the 14th in Paris to Massy. Makes me feel like I’ve done something with my day and Mr French always rewards me with a stop in Sceaux at my favorite bakery. Most of the ride is absolutely green, so we escape the city. And since cellphones are a very bad idea when pedaling, we also escape the rest of our world.




Advent -22


Can't you picture this lovely pink chez nous, chéri?

If you follow my blog, you’re probably in shock that I haven’t mentioned art yet, but I guess I was saving the best for last. Of course, not everyone has millions to give their loved on a Renoir and even Anish Kapoor is in the 6 figures these days (lucky you, Mr French, because, yes I WOULD love to have one of his huge holes in our walls).

But never fear, because art is never far; A ONE YEAR museum membership is a great gift to give. The passes often give the bearer the right to jump the queue, which is always a thrill. And if there are lots of show in a year, a pass  is like the gift that keeps on giving; inspiring the giftee to return several times over the next 12 months. They can often invite a guest, as well, so they can share their passion with someone. Maybe even you (although I really hope their passion isn’t medieval medical tools, for your sake). Some memberships even include invitations to annual parties, which are a great excuse to dress up in black tie, or your favorite scuba gear, depending on the museum you choose.

Which is a really great point, because it doesn’t have to be an art museum. In fact, only 1/2 the museums in Paris are art museums and since your gift should reflect the interests of the person your giving it to, it is worth looking around for the best options out there. Are they London bound next spring? What London museums have interesting events going on? Do they just love making fakes? In Paris there a counterfeit museum. There is a hunting museum for the hunters in your life. Sports, music, Indian art, the Holocaust, there is a museum for everyone and even if it is far away, people like to feel they belong, or they are supporting something they love.

Even better, some of the museums, like the Smithsonian in DC, have magazines, so your giftee gets a monthly update on what is going on at the museum and in the field, as well as a sneak peek on coming events, which can be key for trip planning if the museum is far from home.

Oh, and if your giftee is single, museums are major pick up joints. And no, I am not saying how I know that. Give the gift and find out from your friends.

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