Come Away ~ Paris Shop Windows

My brain control centre has been  clamoring for a pleasure rush this morning. Did you know that no matter what you crave, it can all be traced back to your neurons and really has little to do with what you think you desire?   Knowing this, I suppose I could have satiated myself otherwise. But was inspired instead to a double glazed chocolate croissant and cream puffs for breakfast. Really, who am I to refuse the control centre?

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I’ve been thinking about Valentine’s Day this week, since it’s right around the corner.  I like to consider Valentine’s Day a season, one that lasts pretty much all year.  Blush tinged roses, decadent pastries, new books. I’m an unabashed consumer of lovely things. And sometimes, I’m the lucky recipient of them. Like my new imaginary travel journal, which has taken up residence on my coffee table.  Because who knows when inspiration may strike next?

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Golden calligraphy makes any sentiment look good, don’t you think?  And as they say, self affirmation is an important practice.

I’ve been debating taking an imaginary trip to the City of Love. It’s a bit passe though, isn’t it?  Everyone’s flocking there this time of year. But I can no more resist Paris shop windows than I can cream puffs. So I’m afraid we’ll have to go anyways.  Don’t worry, we’ll be quick.  I only have an hour before I have to return to my imaginary job as a Printemps Paris window designer. Oh, the headaches I’m having with this display! (I should really see my therapist soon.)

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Printemps, which alludes to Spring in french, is not only a department store, it’s a historic monument.  When it opened in 1865, it boasted the latest in everything ~ electric lighting! electric heat! ready made dresses! imported fancies! For an intriguing fictional exploration of 19th century consumerism, check out  Mr. Selfridge , the story of  Harry Selfridge’s Flagship Department store in London.  And  PBS’s The Paradise, based Emile Zola’s  novel, Au Bonheur Des Dames,  which describes “the poetry of modern activity.” Both  series are available on  Netflix. I’ve spent many evenings power watching each in the name of history.

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But we’re not here to talk about television series.  We’ll barely be able to peek into the windows of a few lovely shops, but we’ll power walk, ok?  The Hotel Costes’ shop is a dedicated rose boutique inspired by  Josephine Bonaparte’s love of roses.  It always has a must see display of roses.  (Do follow the link and take a longer look. Divine.)

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And what’s not to love about wild, romantic tangle of petals and foliage tumbling out the open door of 360 Degrees?  I’ll take one of everything, gift wrapped!

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Or Odorantes, which I’ve been lusting after simply forever… How many times have I fancied myself a floral shop owner?  But this line between reality and fantasy is becoming more and more blurred and I must get back to work.  My window display awaits me.

Oh look! A petite Parisienne outside the flower shop pulling petals off a rose! Tres jolie! I must get a picture even if means my job.

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What a lovely lunch hour it’s been.  Thank you for accompanying me on this fanciful (if hurried) jaunt. And Happy Valentine’s Day, where ever it finds you.  Be sure to indulge yourself in some beauty.

 

Photo credits: Creampuff: n/c, Printemps window: n/c, Printemps signage: pinterest, n/c, Hotel Costes: Aryana Francesca Urbani, 360 Degrees: via pilgrimandpie blogspot, Odorantes: via awhitecarosuel.com, Petite Parisienne: Pinterest, n/c

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About last week…

Like much of the world, I’ve been trying to process last week’s events in Paris.  To be honest, I’ve also been trying to ignore them.  The same way as I’ve been trying to ignore the outpouring of grief and outrage from Beirut, Libya, Lebanon, Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan. I simply don’t have the heart to take on all that pain and loss. Perhaps that is selfish of me.

They say even years later, people remember exactly what they were doing when “X”  event happened.  I was working on an anthropology paper in my studio when my news feed lit up with reports of the Paris attacks.  We have friends in Paris, this is the second time this year I’ve sent anxious queries about their well being. My kids and I spent a week in 2014 in the Republique district of Paris where much of the chaos took place. Somehow that makes it even more disturbing.

It’s only been the past few years that I’ve taken a more concerted interest in world events, politics, history. I’m not a political scientist or historian, but I know enough now to understand that as barbaric as terrorism is, there are complex root issues behind it.  On Friday night  I watched PBS’s documentary, ‘Losing Iraq’, which follows the growth of Isis. It helps me to understand the history of  middle eastern conflict and to revisit the impact of our bungled western, imperialistic, capitalistic involvement there.  I also read an excellent article on the Paris-Response-Retribution-Cycle.  None of this of course, negates the loss and pain of  those directly involved. But it’s important just the same, to examine world events through a sociological lens and ask “why?”

My son was working on a paper for his political science course this weekend. His class is analyzing Sartre’s play, Dirty Hands. Dirty Hands was written near the end of the second world war and examines whether it’s possible in politics and war, to emerge without dirty hands, no matter how idealistic the intent. We also talked about the Machiavellian question of whether the end justifies the means.  The timing of this discussion almost seems ironic.  Dirty hands, everywhere.

My generation of Canadians and our children haven’t directly experienced war, we live relatively free from that threat.  I can’t imagine the terror I’d feel over one my kids being drafted or voluntarily signing up for the military.  I’m not sure I could cope with it. There is nothing I value more than their lives. I also can’t imagine losing a child to join the fight for religious extremist ideals or as a casualty of a terrorist attack. My parent heart literally quivers and shrinks at the prospect.  I want the world to be a safe, peaceful, predictable place but not have it cost anything.  Perhaps that’s selfish of me also.

I feel pretty impotent in light of all this suffering and chaos. Besides exercising my right to vote, which I didn’t even do this year, my opinions and impact are negligible at best.  I hope we keep our borders open to refugees fleeing from terrorism because they need help. I hope those inflicting acts of terror are stopped but I’d rather it came as a result of negotiation, not loss of lives.  I hate that words like ‘neutralized’ are used in place of killed. For god’s sake, call it what it is. I wish we could all just play nice, understand, support each other and revel in the short, precious time we share on this breath-taking planet. On the other hand, if anyone threatened one of my own, I’d come out shooting like an Ozark Mountain hillbilly.

I have a friend who used to be museum curator in Ontario.  She moved to Iraq several years ago to teach photography in schools and help kids with heart problems.  This morning I came across a pic of her in a Libyan hospital holding a baby post surgery, wearing a hijab. She’s pretty much a rock star in my books.  I sent her a quick note saying so and she replied, ‘You and I are more similar than you think. It’s only ever about loving the person in front of you.’  I was glad to hear that.  Most of the time, it takes everything I’ve got just to handle the political, economic and religious diversities of my own home and head, let alone the world.

A great many people more eloquent than I have shared their insights online.  I appreciate Anne Lamott’s and Elizabeth Gilbert’s heartening reflections.  Vox has a great short video info graphic called Syria’s War  which visually illustrates some of the political factors in the middle east.  My friend Scott explains the psychology behind ‘Why We Care More about Paris’. 

As for me, I’m just trying to figure it all out.  On Friday afternoon, saddened and conflicted after hearing the news, I stepped outside and clipped back the French lavender and oregano on my deck. In a moment of mindfulness, I cupped my hands over my face, drinking in the heady scent of the season’s last blooms.  Then I came inside, listened to stories of my kid’s days, served up some chicken soup and hung a string of  christmas lights. I’m not sure I can do much besides that.

Carl Jung tells us, “The sole purpose of human existence is to kindle a light in the darkness of mere being.”

I sure hope christmas lights count.

Of Fairy Tales and French Chateaus…

light drizzle fell over the valley yesterday morning.  I knew it before even looking outside; the welcome scent of wet concrete and earth drifted in through my open window. I have a friend who thinks I’m imagining this scent and mocks me good-naturedly about it. But turns out it’s real, and even has a technical name, ‘Petrichor’.  Who’d have thought? There’s an oil that plants give off during arid periods to delay germination and dry earth and concrete absorb it.  When the rain finally hits, the oils are released into the atmosphere and viola – that scent! Now we know.

The cool day inspired me to pick up a project I’ve had on hold on quite a while.  I’m taking a paper mache class with the lovely (and oh, so patient) paper artist, Laetitia Mieral of Merveilles En Papier from Lyon, France.  Laetitia makes fantastical paper mache chateaus and palaces based on French architecture, storybook inspired characters in royal robes, beautiful paper dresses and other fancies of imagination.

I chanced upon her work on Pinterest and was instantly captivated by the artful fusion of fairy tale and French history. I went on to make my own paper mache castle and frog character which I used as part of my portfolio to get in to art school. Earlier this year, Laetitia launched an online experimental version of the character workshop she hosts in her atelier in Lyon and held a little contest to join in.  I was over the moon to be invited to take part. We’re making a cat, in court costume, which I’m sadly quite behind on.

But better late than never.  Here are a few shots of a lovely afternoon in the garden, painting the watercolour ‘fabric’ that le chat’s gown will be made of. And my first attempt at a paper mache fairy tale castle, with a bandanna’ed, cigar smoking frog perched on the eave.

I’ve been so happily lost in art history world, I’d forgotten just how much fun it is to do creative things.  If you have a chance, hop over and check out Laetitia’s work, it’s so whimsical and enchanting. And if you’re bored today, pop over to my house, I’ll be in garden, lost in dreamland.

Another little summer dream…

How about owning a 19th century village in the South of France?  For $25 mil, the hameau (small village) which sits on 35 acres, includes a 12 bedroom main residence, a restaurant, a church that’s been converted into guest accommodations and a swimming pool surrounded with white sand ~ all just ten miles south of St. Tropez.  If you have that kind of cash kicking around, pop over here for more details. (And you can see who owns it now.)

Renoir’s House…

In case you’ve ever wanted to peek into the great impressionist painter’s house, here’s your chance.  It’s in a quiet little village called Essoyes in Champagne-Ardennes, France and apparently, we’re among the first to visit.

This is the gate leading into Renoir’s front courtyard.  He lived here with his wife Aline, who was a seamstress and their three sons, Pierre, Jean and Claude.   He died here also, with the house staying in the family until his grand-daughter sold it to the town Essoyes.  The town plans to open the house as a museum in 2017 but as of these pictures, it still looks exactly as it did when the Renoir’s lived here.

Renoir-gateHere’s a view of the back yard.  And just down the path is the stream where Renoir painted well into his old age.

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If you’re curious what’s inside, pop over to The Good Life France for a complete tour. Take your time, I’ll be waiting in the yard.  I’m a bit worried about ghosts.

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 The Renoir family in the studio of the painter ~ around 1901

Just thought I’d introduce myself…

I always appreciate a visual of the people I’m meeting online, so here you go, too.  This is my daughter and me high in January, above Marseille, France on the Ferris wheel.  (…no, that’s not right – that’s a perfect example of words in the wrong order skewing meaning!  We weren’t high in January above Marseille, we were high above Marseille in January!) What an awesome ride, view, experience.

Sweetest Psych Ward I’ve Ever Seen…

Stumbled upon this in my internet travels this morning.  Le Monastère Saint-Paul-de-Mausole at Saint-Rémy-de-Provence. The monastery was built in the 11th C, but was sold after the French Revolution & became a psychiatric hospital. Vincent Van Gogh was treated here (1889-1890).  In spite of Van Gogh’s mental instability, he produced over 140 paintings during his stay at the hospital.   Saint Paul de Mausole remains today a psychiatric health institution.

Can’t say I’d mind being committed there.   If you’d like to too, more here.  😉

 

 

If you’re ever in Florence…

…and your name is Lori, here’s the spot to look for. 😉

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Back in January, my daughter & I met up with my son, who was studying in the South of France, and took a three week whirlwind trip around Europe. We began in Paris, then on to Vienna, Florence, Marseille and the French countryside. It was beyond anything I could have imagined, historically, architecturally, artistically.  Sometimes I wonder how I can possibly last another day without packing my bags and spending the rest of my life exploring Europe and refurbishing a chateau or villa.  Such a sweet dream…