Lèche vitrine*

a Street reNamed Happiness

Growing up, I was not the girl with movie star posters on her walls. Luke Skywalker did not melt my butter and I had no dreams of cycling off into space with my very own ET. I was a grounded girl I figured, my feet firmly planted in the rich California earth. Then the Goodfellas came out and I nearly swooned for Ray Liotta. Turns out, I like the bad boys. The really bad boys.

Which is when I realized that us girls, we all have a very particular taste of our own. Someone at adopteunmec.com must like bad boys, too, because she has helped he online dating site go brick and mortar, opening up a pop-up shop for single women.

Pilot Mec, I always wanted the Barbie plane!

Like human Barbies, the available men are displayed in large, pink boxes, with detailed instructions on the side just waiting to be unwrapped by an anxious young girl under the Christmas tree.

As I walked into the shop, I felt like Barbie herself, the entire Matel universe brought to life with a pilot, veterinarian, gym buff, and surfer dude. As I clapped my hands in glee, I turned to see Thomas, the event photographer who I met last week and who also happens to be a very good friend of La Fashionista (Mr French’s daughter).

“I’m…. I’mmmmmm….. here for work,” he stuttered, pointing to his camera and very hard-to-miss tripod.

“Yes, me too,” very glad to have OutandAboutinParis by my side as chief witness to my innocent curiousity.

Monsieur Surfer Dude

At 15h the place was humming like a night club, crowds spilled out on to the rue du Bonheur, with live music spun by Mr Techni, an open bar and plenty of treats to seduce the girls. Adopteamec gets girls. There was chocolate, and bubble gum pink tagadas, and mouth satisfying Magnum bars to pleasure their fantacies as they popped into a box with the tux clad Mr Chic, or the plugged in Mr Geek.

I had been shooting the IHT early that morning, so I thought it would be fun to get the guys with the paper. Opening the box of Mr Chic, I expected a look of utter horror. I am probably closer to his mother’s age than his own. But this is France where age matters less, and I was greeted with a warm invite.

Le Bar, serving teddy bears, red heads and geeks

As stereotyoes would have it, Mr Chic held the paper up to pose, Mr Geek started reading and I had to pry it from his hands, while Mr Muscle just held it up to the plastic box, the concept of reading well beyond his imagination.

If you’re looking for a bad boy of your own, Adopteamec is at 15 rue des Halles in the 1st until next week, before hitting the road for the dating capitals of Europe…


*Lèche Vitrine means window shopping, but translate as Window licking

*Adopt a Dude

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…


Bonjour Paris !!!

We’re home!!! To be honest, my blog is post dated, so we’ve been home for an entire week and got to enjoy the canicule. It was glorious to have a bit of heat after our dismal Paris summer!

Sorbet from Pierre Hermé... no line and virtually guilt free!!!

So, what is it like, coming home to Paris? Well, if you have to say good bye to Africa or any great adventure, knowing that you’ll soon be saying Bonjour, Paris does make the pill that much easier to swallow. If you’re a paranoid freak like myself, you will be very relieved to come home and find that your flat has not been broken into, because home invasion is the number one crime in the City of Lights and it is particularly popular over les vacances.


Along with the relief comes an overwhelming sense of mud-wallowing, tail-wagging joy, because it is mid-August and the city is nearly empty, opening up a delicious playground to discover and fall in love with all over again.


There is a sinfully tempting selection of note-worthy restaurants that are usually too packed to even attempt in the regular season. This week we just walked up to and were immediately seated on the terrasse at the fabulous Le Comptoir du Relais and the mouth-watering La Cantine du Troquet Dupleix. Both featuring a enlightened menu of light, scrumptious dishes to choose from, all 100% healthy and guilt free. Like Mr French’s cold beet soup with anchovies at Le Comptoir, or my grilled razorback clams at La Cantine.

Even the street art got in the mood...

And parking spaces!!! Everywhere. One night Mr French called on his way home from the office, “It is gorgeous out. Get dressed, we’re going on a date.” 15 minutes later he was downstairs and we were headed for a lovely evening, topped off by a romantic stroll at the foot of Sacer Coeur. Like a true rive guache Parisienne, I had not been there in eons, so I was swept away by the romance of the illuminated,  rain bleached basilica surrounded by couples hand-in-hand, tourists clamouring for a view of the Eiffel Tower as it went into sparkle mofe on the hour and one really, really bad street singer who provided the perfect comic relief for an enchanted evening in Paris.



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.

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.

The 21st

The 21st arrondisement, that is. What? You didn’t know Paris has 21 arrondisements? Understandable, given that it is never spoken of and not on any of the maps. It must be one of those French things, like knowing that you pronounce the city Paree, but my lawyer friend, Bruno Paris, is Monsieur Pareace. I’ve given up trying to understand.

But I do understand the 21st arrondisement. It’s a joke about the seaside town of Deauville, in Normandie. A short 2 our car ride, or a direct train trip away from central Paris, Deauville is a luxurious burst of fresh air for city rats needing to breath. With a casino, large luxury hotels, horse racing and the American Film festival, Deauville has the reputation of being quite luxurious, indeed. Having an Hermes boutique not far from Bruno Cucinelli and Louis Vuitton does not help dispel the thought. But this is only half the story.

Deauville is really not far from Paris, easy to reach, a great place to picnic and the beach is  free. Running along the beach in the early morning (early morning in France is 10am) this Sunday, we heard Vietnamese, Arab, Yiddish, Portuguese and a few African dialects, mixed with British, German and Dutch from every socio-economic class. Many of the people we passed were unloading their cars, having driven up from Paris that morning. Like us, the were in town for just the day.

Mr French and I do this trip fairly often. Getting up early in the morning, we dress in our running gear, throw two groggy teens into the back seat and head on up. As soon as we arrive the teens set themselves up in a café on the boardwalk, while we run. An hour later they dive in with us at the indoor sea water swimming pool before heading off to lunch.

Lunch always creates a heated debate. I love Les Vapeurs in the neighboring town, Trouville, just a 20 minute stroll away. Mr French is a fan of Les 3 mages in Tourgeville, 12 minutes further down the boardwalk. Les Vapeurs is on a crowded port and Paris socialites squeeze on to the terrasse with tourists and locals, everyone savouring the exceptional butter (butter HAS to be great for a Parisienne to dig, this one is legendary) before digging into perfect moules frites. It you’re feeling flush their grilled lobster is PERFECT.  Les 3 Mages has a large, wind protected deck on the beach, with exceptional seafood platters and good (not great) food. Both are a welcome break after our sporting frenzy.

Lunch is generally followed by a stroll into “town” or a siesta on the sand. This weekend we had a great time on the beach listening to some local (Parisian) kids playing soccer, as they made fun of the yuppy looking bourgeois Parisiens on the boardwalk with their Italian loafers, Lacoste shirts, long pants, Ray Bans and a sweater across the shoulders. These kids were of African decent, with one Arab friend, who they called the Hallal Pig. Who needs tv when you can go to the beach in France?

Les Vapeurs

Ohh la la lingerie…

Mr French likes to take me shopping. I know, totally weird, huhn? A man who likes to shop? Rumour has it that this is actually pretty common among French men and circumstantial evidence tells me its probably true. That circumstantial evidence being last week’s trip to NYC where every intelligent store seemed to have plenty of seating full of bored to tears (literally, in one instance) men folk.

As a result of all this shopping, my name is on the mailing list of some rather nice boutiques. One of these boutiques is Eres. I know, cool, huhn? I’ve been into an Eres store with Mr French. It was Valentine’s Day their collection had lace. ‘Nuf said about that.

Eres was founded by the Parisienne Irene Leroux in 1968, when she took over her family’s struggling bathing suit business near La Madeleine. At a time when women were liberating themselves and their fashions, Irene decided to revolutionize swimwear design by removing all the internal corsetry. And she started a winter collection for her affluent clients who would spend the colder months in warmer climates. This brilliant move earned her the scorn of the local competition who scoffed at her foolishness, until they realized she had  revitalize the entire industry while ensuring Eres’ foothold in the luxury market.

In 1996 Chanel purchased Eres and two years later they introduced a line of sumptuously rich, incredibly elegant lingerie. This season’s collection is particularly gorgeous; sensible lace trimming iced aqua blue or sunshine yellow silk. Pretty and girlie, yet practical. Things I can wear under my clothing without worrying about weird ruffles popping up or strange ribbons creating a deformed looking silhouette. Stunningly sexy, pleasing not only Mr French but the firemen of the quartier!

A couple of weeks ago I got an other treat from Eres… an invitation to the launch of their new nail polish collection. Sounded like the great way to get our minds thinking of summer sunshine to combat the gloomy spring we’ve had and who doesn’t love a girls night out; champagne, panties and polish!?! I invited my friend Kristen from Un Homme et Une Femme and we were treated to an evening of pampering. About three of the guests had thought to bring along their men folk, who looked very content to ogle the barely clad models as they filtered through the crowd. I was glad Mr French was not around to see these girls in their swimsuits before I get back into mine this summer! There was a lively cocktail bar, but I was too lazy to brave the clamouring crowd, so Kristen and I made do with champagne. And since eating anything substantial in sight of the bathing beauties would be something of a mental challenge, Eres provided fresh sliced mango, melon and strawberries, which went well with our manicures, Kristen chose orange and I went for raspberry.

The best part was leaving. We were given little gift bags and sent out into the balmy night. Balmy? Yes, balmy. The weather had turned and warmth was in the air as dusk settled, the city turned on its gold toned electric light and we strolled down to the Concorde, heading home, ready for summer.



May Day

Confession. I collect dolls. I have collected dolls since I was a very young girl, then I started collecting masks, and then I opened a portrait studio. I seem to be obsessed with faces. One of my favorite dolls when I was very young was from the Kiddie Kologne collection by Matel. Sour apple, Honeysuckle, I had them all, but the one I loved was Lily-of-the-Valley, for her charming blossoms and delicate scent. I still love Lily-of-the-Valley, but today I have to settle for the flowers.

May 1st, 1561, King Charles IX received a Lily-of-the-Valley for good luck. He liked the idea and offered the same flower to all the ladies in his court. It was a very good idea and 500 years latet the tradition seems to have stuck. Probably because the lady receiving the flower is obliged to give a kiss in return, which seems to inspire quite a bit of generousity. Every year, on May Day, the streets of every town are littered with people selling bouquets of muguets, while the forests are full of people harvesting muguet on the one day it is legal to do so and even the chocolatiers get into the act, filling plastic pots with chocolate soil and adding a plastic sprig of the bloom.

When we were first dating Mr French noticed that I like white flowers in general, and I may have mentioned the Lily-of-the-Valley specifically. The weekend before ‘our’ first May Day he showed up for a date with a huge bouquet of Lily-of-the-Valley. No fillers, just lilies. There were probably 200 sprigs in the bunch. It was gorgeous. It swept me off my feet and made me feel like one of Charles IX ladies at a royal court.

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